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Maple Pointe dedicates rock garden to residents lost during the pandemic

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The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in devastating loss around the world, and Rockville Centre has been no exception. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which are tasked with taking care of an already vulnerable population, were particularly affected: Maple Pointe Assisted Living of Rockville Centre lost 37 people this year, and held a ceremony outdoors last month to dedicate a rock garden to those who died this year.

On Sept. 17, several dozen people gathered at Maple Pointe’s back patio for a memorial for the residents who died. Executive Director Tammy Marshall also praised her staff for the work they did during the toughest months.

“We were hit with something in March unexpected that none of us were prepared for, and it was emotional and gut-wrenching,” Marshall said. “But the strength and power I witnessed from the crew in this building…I’m so proud of all of you.”

She thanked her staff members for their dedication and bringing their “A game” throughout the crisis. “I hope this day brings you closure,” Marshall said.”

Marshall, along with staff members Shari Stein and Audrey Fullman, read the names of each person who was “loved and lost” this year, and other staff members were called to the podium to share words of remembrance.

Not all of the residents were not diagnosed, but were “casualties of the pandemics” Marshall said. “Some residents died of loneliness and just checked out.”

Assemblywoman Judy Griffin attended the ceremony. “I’m sorry to have to be here for a sad occasion..37 is a tough number. I know you worked tirelessly,” she said to the staff. “I’m sorry for your loss and appreciate all of your hard work.”

Nicole Sorace, the Country Cottage coordinator recalled the hardship that began on March 13. “We were going through something that none of us have ever experienced before. I saw such caring and beauty in this building that brought me to tears almost every single day,” Sorace said. “We couldn’t hug our own families and own children when we went home, and we sacrificed our lives every day without hesitation because this is our family, too. This is our job, but this is our livelihood. We lost so many beautiful people, but I hope you all remember the people we almost lost that we pulled out of depression, that we helped survived. I look at these faces every day, and we all did this together.”

Joseph Nocera, a physical therapist from FOX Rehab, shared memories of some of the residents he worked with, and how he learned valuable lessons from some of them. “As we pay honor and tribute to those we’ve lost, we do so by living every day to the fullest, never taking for granted the lives that we have,” Nocera said, “and keeping alive the memory of our friends in our hearts, where they will live forever.”

Alicsa Casey, who works in housekeeping, said that the pandemic, despite the difficulty, helped her find renewed appreciation for what she does. “This moment made me stronger, made me love the job more and made me love the residents more, especially Charles Ebel,” Casey said. “One day he said to me, ‘Casey, I appreciate what you do for me every single day.’ And that made me believe I was doing something good for them and kept me going every day.”

Home Health Aide Monica Wheaton said she has “fond memories” of all those who were lost during this pandemic.

“After working here for so many years, we were like one big family,” Wheaton said, “so losing all was such a hard felt loss. They put smiles on our faces and I enjoyed being around them. I miss them all.”