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Open arms welcome displaced residents of Crystal Lake Apartments to Memorial Gym

Red Cross mass care leader Stephen Pollitt, left, paces the Memorial Gym where donations of food were set for lunch Saturday for evacuees from Crystal Lake Apartments. After talking with EMA director Spencer Hawkins, Pollitt said he would be getting ready to serve a dinner meal from the Salvation Army and get cots ready to house residents displaced by the emergency.
Red Cross mass care leader Stephen Pollitt, left, paces the Memorial Gym where donations of food were set for lunch Saturday for evacuees from Crystal Lake Apartments. After talking with EMA director Spencer Hawkins, Pollitt said he would be getting ready to serve a dinner meal from the Salvation Army and get cots ready to house residents displaced by the emergency. bcabell@macon.com

About 70 residents displaced by a mandatory evacuation order of some buildings at Crystal Lake Apartments were provided food and shelter by the American Red Cross in cooperation with Macon-Bibb officials.

Community members donated money to the Red Cross to provide hotel rooms for those residents who didn’t have family or friends to stay with after the evacuation. Macon-Bibb opened Memorial Gym on Second Street as a day shelter, Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said Saturday.

The mandatory evacuation Friday came on the heels of a review of the apartment complex by the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department and Code Enforcement after complaints about safety and the lack of water and electricity to several of the buildings.

Deemed unsafe, the buildings were to remain closed until after repairs and a subsequent review, Floore said.

“The electrical and life safety systems are not yet ready to be turned back on, and until they are, we cannot allow people to occupy the buildings,” Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said in a news release. “Our first concern here is to make sure that people’s homes are safe.”

Pooled water around electrical systems and exterior stairs created safety issues.

Management for the apartment complex had contractors on site Saturday to make necessary repairs, with Macon-Bibb fire and code inspectors standing by, Floore said.

Those repairs were not expected to be completed by nightfall, with Macon-Bibb fire and code inspectors likely to review the impacted buildings on Sunday, Floore said.

Red Cross workers served breakfast, lunch and dinner at Memorial Gym on Saturday, with breakfast and lunch expected to be offered Sunday.

Red Cross and Macon-Bibb officials were ready Saturday to keep the gym open overnight should the need arise, Floore said.

Most tenants were able to stay with family and friends, he said.

Ordinarily, the Red Cross doesn’t get involved in things like this, but the agency has a good relationship with Macon-Bibb officials, said Stephen Pollitt, a mass care leader for the ARC Central Mid West Georgia Chapter.

“I want to thank our community partners and agencies - and even many individuals - for coming forward to help people during this difficult time,” Emergency Management Agency Director Spencer Hawkins said in the release. “This is a situation no one should have to go through, and it is with our partners help that we are working to provide as much support as we possibly can.”

Videographer Beau Cabell contributed to this article.

Macon-Bibb officials close Crystal Lake Apartments for electrical and water problems. Displaced residents hoping the problems can be fixed by Saturday.

Becky Purser covers breaking and Houston County news. She previously covered crime and courts for Houston and Peach counties for The Telegraph. A graduate of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville with a bachelor’s degree in communications/news-editorial sequence, Becky also has covered city and county government for Georgia, Tennessee and Virginia newspapers.
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