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‘You could see the joy on faces’

Sundale finds way to make visits work

Chris Atkins has had family members at Sundale Rehabilitation and Long Term Care in Morgantown.

The owner of City Neon Inc.  remembers how happy family members were when they were able to get together and visit. And he knows what some of his employees who have family members at the Morgantown nursing home are going through after not being to see each other face-to-face for more than two months.

“I saw a place (nursing home) in Ohio did a (clear) box with a wood frame,” Atkins said. “I knew we could do better.”

Atkins reached out to his co-workers to discuss the idea and they were on board, too. Since they were already making sneeze and face guards, City Neon already had the material and expertise to make the boxes.

“It was the right thing for us to do,” Atkins said.

visitors box being showed off
Desiree Martin, Donna Tennant and Shari Danser show off the new visitors box at Sundale.

City Neon delivered the three-sided box to Sundale on May 29 and it was an immediate hit with the residents, their families and the Sundale staff, said Donna Tennant, Sundale’s admissions and marketing director.

The facility placed the box at the front of its building next to the main entrance. The three-sided box is six feet high and four feet deep.

“It’s been amazing,” said Tennant, who has been at Sundale for 27 years and admitted to crying when the box was delivered.

 “Families got to see their loved ones,” Tennant said. “Husbands and wives got to see each other. All of the residents are smiling. You could see the joy on their faces.

“It’s almost like sitting beside family,” she said.

The 80-plus Sundale residents have not been able to see family and friends since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic struck West Virginia. Many have had to make do by visiting family members outside their windows or by video calls.

“To see the expression on one of our resident’s was just priceless,” she said.

The box has wheels on it so it can be moved around easily. Tennant said residents usually spend 30 minutes or so visiting and then get tired. The box is wiped down between visits, she added.

Atkins said the husband of a Sundale resident has offered to donate the materials to build another box so there will be two at Sundale. He said they are looking at pricing for a permanent box, plus they are looking at the feasibility of incorporating the box into its COVID-19 product line, which includes face shields and sneeze guards.

“We’re going to be able to adapt to the situation,” he said.

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