Saving Lives: The Greatest Act of Service

Jun 27
Janet Stinde, Area Director
Dungarvin Wisconsin
Picture of Jeanne and the men at Yahara

The morning began just like any other Saturday morning at the Yahara Program in Madison, Wisconsin. Community Support Provider (CSP), Jeanne Gebhardt was assisting the men who reside in the apartment with their morning routines. All three men, Jeff, Mark and Glenn have physical disabilities and use wheelchairs for mobility, but this by no means limits them from participating in very active lives and they were planning for a busy weekend.

As Jeanne was helping one of the men get ready for the eventful day ahead, Glenn began to yell. As she turned to look, she saw flames and smoke billowing from the dryer. The smoke coming from the dryer was thick and black; it was soon difficult to see anything in the apartment. Jeanne quickly sprang into action and contacted emergency services as well as the apartment on the floor below, where Dungarvin provides supports, for assistance. She rapidly began to assist the men to transfer to their wheelchairs and exit the apartment. This was no small task as all 3 men were in different places in the apartment doing different things. CSPs Binta Leigh and Corene Moody, as well as a neighbor, were instrumental in assisting with the swift evacuation. Jeanne’s ability to remain calm and focus on getting the individuals to safety was literally the difference between life and death.

Thankfully, the apartment was equipped with sprinklers. Because of Jeanne’s quick thinking, the fire department and the sprinkler system, the fire was under control very quickly. However, there was significant smoke damage to the apartment. The men needed to be relocated to a hotel until given the “all clear” from the fire department. Dungarvin Program Director Thomas Way, Program Director Veronica Polacek and State Director Julie Josephitis all arrived on the scene to assist in obtaining hotel accommodations and to make arrangements for additional staffing, food and supplies. The three men had quite an adventure as they were displaced to several hotels over the next three weeks while waiting for the apartment to be cleaned, repaired and deemed inhabitable so they could return home.

Because of the heroic efforts of CSP Jeanne Gebhardt, the lives of three incredible men were saved that day. Dungarvin Wisconsin will be forever grateful for Jeanne, Binta and Corene’s assistance and quick thinking that late March Saturday morning.

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