ACWORTH — An assisted living and memory care facility in southwest Cherokee County announced it’s closing this week, giving a little over two dozen residents just a few days to find a new place to call home.
Tranquil Gardens, on Bells Ferry Road just north of Highway 92 near Acworth, informed staff and residents Tuesday morning the facility was closing. The 27 residents and their families were given until noon Friday to move out of the center.
Executive Director Tiffany Echols said she received a call from facility owner Brian Stewart at around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. During the call, Stewart informed Echols that she needed to begin calling residents’ families and let them know they would have to move out by noon Friday, as the facility had been foreclosed on.
Sue Petillo, whose father lives at Tranquil Gardens, said her sister received a message from the center late Tuesday morning saying the lease for her father had been revoked. Ken Byers, whose mother has lived at the center for two and a half years, received a similar call Tuesday morning.
“Our family, we were in shock. We went into crisis mode,” Byers said Thursday. “We pulled together and found somewhere else on Bells Ferry Road to move her into.”
Byers said his mother was emotionally shaken up by having to leave Tranquil Gardens, where she was comfortable, and move to a new home.
Echols, who has been the executive director for the past month, said there was not much warning of the center being closed. The only indication she saw that something was amiss was that, when staff were paid two weeks ago, their pay was in the form of personal, paper checks from the owners.
Nicole Windsor was the executive director at Tranquil Gardens before Echols and served in that capacity for two and a half years. Windsor said in her time at the facility, she noticed the owners were not always able to pay bills and had difficulty meeting payroll, a situation she described as a financial “juggling act.”
Although four staff members quit following the announcement, Echols said the rest have chosen to stay on and make sure the residents were taken care of and had somewhere to go. By Wednesday afternoon, all the residents had family ready to help them move into a new location, Echols said.
“We love our residents, and we’re not leaving until the last one of them is moved out,” Echols said.
As word of Tranquil Gardens’ imminent closure spread, several former staff members, including Windsor and former marketer Chelsea Taylor, returned to pitch in and do what they could. Representatives from other assisted living facilities showed up to help, bringing food and caring for residents. Echols said she believed every assisted living center within a five to 10 mile radius had offered their help, while Windsor estimated representatives from at least 15 similar communities had been there in the past 24 hours. Some were from as far away as Hall County, Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Bartow County and Rome. Staff from some of these facilities have even offered jobs to the Tranquil Gardens’ staff now finding themselves without employment, Windsor said.
“The community coming together to help has been overwhelming, but overwhelming in a good way,” Windsor said.
Petillo added many of the representatives from other facilities had said they would waive their fees for residents coming from Tranquil Gardens and not charge rent for the remainder of July.
Before the foreclosure announcement, Tranquil Gardens residents and their families were facing a rent hike, Petillo said. She said families received a notice in mid-May that rent would go up by about $500, and some families left, which may have contributed to the financial situation.
State regulations call for assisted living centers to give residents and their families 30 days’ notice, Windsor and Petillo said.
Stewart did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Byers said he managed to meet with the Stewarts following the announcement, and was informed that Tranquil Gardens had run out of money, leading to the closure.
“It was good while it lasted,” Byers said. “It just didn’t last long enough for our family.”