Residents return to Heather Glen
Just four months after a three-alarm fire caused the evacuation of staff and residents, Heather Glen Senior Living has risen from the ashes.
The facility, at 415 Blue Barn Road, Upper Macungie Township, had a grand reopening ceremony Feb. 3.
The nursing home sustained severe damage after a fire broke out on the second floor just before 3 a.m. Sept. 22, 2019, and spread to the building’s eaves and roof.
All 82 senior citizens and five staff members inside were safely evacuated by first responders, who had to pull down sections of the ceiling to combat the blaze.
In the months since the fire, contractors have worked to repair the damaged areas of the nursing home and renovate the facility to improve residents’ quality of life.
“It’s been a little over four months since we had our incident, and I can tell you right now the building is better than ever,” Heather Glen Project Manager Frank Pepper told those gathered for the reopening.
He thanked staff, contractors, community members and attending township staff for their support and work in bringing the nursing home back into operation.
“I’ve been all over the country working and I’ve never seen better people then I’ve seen here, working to get this back together as far as the staff from Heather Glen, the contractors from BELFOR Property Restoration, the subcontractors, and Upper Macungie Township has worked with us and been phenomenal,” Pepper said. “We’ve had tremendous support, and everyone’s mission was to get this open, make it better than new, and we’ve been able to do that in a little over four months.
“We have good community support here today, and we’ve had it since the day of our incident, so on behalf of Heather Glen I can’t thank you enough.”
Jeff Horvath, general manager of BELFOR’s Allentown location, told The Press his office was one of the first to assist in rebuilding.
He said BELFOR pulled resources from their regional and national branches, including a Mobile Command Center, mobile warehouses and other equipment, which allowed the nursing facility to be rapidly repaired.
Pepper noted that restoration and renovation work was not yet fully completed, but said further additions would only enhance residents’ experiences at the facility.
“Like any house we still have a little bit more addition we’re going to do, but that’s OK,” Pepper said. “We have more stuff to add, and it’s only going to be better for the residents, better for the community, and we’re glad to have you all here.”
After Pepper’s speech, it was time for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
Following an enthusiastic audience countdown and surrounded by fellow Heather Glen residents, Arline Lahn did the honors, cutting a ribbon strung beneath a balloon archway, and ringing in the facility’s official reopening.
“I’m excited to be home,” Lahn said with a smile. “It feels so good to be back where I began.”
Musician Glenn Miller performed a special welcoming song and kept the atmosphere lively as residents and staff cheered and danced.
Attendees were then treated to a reception and refreshments prepared by Heather Glen staff.
Heather Glen Executive Director Jacklyn Atiyeh said it felt “amazing” for the facility to be open again so soon after the September fire.
“This means everything, to be able to provide a home for our residents,” Atiyeh said about the new beginning for Heather Glen, noting that some residents have already moved into the renovated facility and more will likely return in the near future.
“We as management went through a lot, but the residents went through so much more. Now, after everything we’ve been through, to be able to open again, it’s a day I’ll never forget.”
Rick Koze, owner and president of Kay Builders, which designed and built Heather Glen Senior Living, thanked the community and said he was grateful that residents have returned to call Heather Glen home.
“After the horrible event, we’re just so glad to have the support of the community to rebuild and the support of our residents to return,” Koze said. “It’s great to be open again.”
Pepper said the cause of the fire is still undetermined and noted that the township was “still working on the paperwork.”
He reiterated everybody at Heather Glen was grateful for the community’s assistance after the fire, and that the home is ready to reciprocate the support.
“Heather Glen is deeply appreciative of the community’s support: from the township managers to the fire department, to the police, EMS and the people,” Pepper said. “Heather Glen stands ready to help out in the community should the need ever arise.”