Benchmark Senior Living at Hamden Lends a Hand to Woman Who Lost Home in May Tornado

Benchmark at Hamden

Adele Volpe lost her home, which she and her husband had owned for more than 50 years and where they raised their son, in the May tornado.

But through the kindness of staff at Benchmark Senior Living, she found safe harbor from the storm.

Volpe, 83, said she was alone when the tornado hit.

She wasn’t prepared, as she said the radio broadcast she heard had not made clear the severity of the pending storm.

Suddenly, the sky turned green and black and the whirlwind rolled in.

Every tree on her property was knocked down, and three fell through the roof of her home, rendering it uninhabitable.

“It was probably the scariest experience in my life,” said Volpe.

The next day, upset, she called Benchmark Senior Living at Robbins Brook to check on her husband, Mel, who has lived there for nearly two years, and she ended up telling them what had happened.

Jacquelyn Gaulin, executive director of the community, and Mia Criscuolo, its director of community relations, immediately set off to get her out of her home and gave her a place to stay at Benchmark.

Volpe ended up living at the community for two and a half weeks — they took her shopping and brought her back to the home to get her clothes — until her insurance company got her an apartment nearby. She remains in the apartment while determining the extent to which her home can be restored.

“They’ve been wonderful,” Volpe said, her voice thick with emotion. “I can’t believe they did it (for me).”

Gaulin and Criscuolo said they didn’t weigh the danger of heading out; they leaped to help — and not helping Volpe wasn’t a consideration.

“We just said ‘we’re coming, and you can stay with us,’” said Criscuolo.

“We didn’t really even think about it,” said Gaulin. “We just got in the car.”

They went over the downed power lines, lifting their feet off the floor of their car as they did, and through the tree limb-strewn streets, finding their way to just over a half-mile from the home.

They walked to get Adele, and the three made their way back to the car.

Providing her a place to stay was the obvious thing to do, Criscuolo and Gaulin said — Volpe is a member of their community.

“She’s part of our family. She’s here every day anyways, and we wanted to take some of that burden off of her,” said Criscuolo.

“We don’t need the recognition or anything,” said Gaulin. “It was just helping out a family (member).”

The memory unit at Benchmark is called the harbor — Volpe noted this Thursday.

“It was my safe harbor,” she said.

Benchmark Senior Living at Hamden