Sue Charlet left her damaged Zachary home with the intention of having a brief stay in Oakwood Village Assisted Living facility. After a year of COVID-19 restrictions and physical separation from her family and friends, she celebrated the best of both worlds: her loved ones and the comforts of the assisted living community.

"Reunited and It Feels So Good" was the theme and motivation of an event held Saturday, July 24, that allowed residents to visit with loved ones and celebrate the reduction of risk among the seniors who were among the first segment of the population vaccinated.

Charlet moved through the crowd like a popular prom queen, introducing her son Jordan Charlet and daughter-in-law Aimee Charlet to her fellow residents and their guests. Leaving isn’t in the conversation anymore. “I had a tree fall on my house on 39th Street here in Zachary,” she said. “It was my family home and I’d been living in there for two or three years.”

The Charlet family had to make a decision in October and they didn’t have a lot of time. “I had to go somewhere, and my kids suggested I consider Oakwood Village,” she said. “I love the people here.”

Jordan Charlet said the love is mutual and his social butterfly mom is now the “mayor of Oakwood Village.” The Charlets had lots of experience with care facilities and the medical community, but Oakwood Village surpassed their expectations. “It is the whole atmosphere — it’s family,” he said. “It was obviously supposed to be a temporary fix until we could build her house back and that changed within the first two weeks. She's the mayor and she's here to stay.”

Oakwood Village executive director Christy Turner said the event was both a morale booster and a way to solidify the feeling of family to which her community strives. “I'm doing it so everybody can feel like they're all family,” Turner said. “We're in this together, but we are also walking into your home.”

The assisted living facility was one of the first facilities to close its doors to visitors and outside exposure early in 2020 and before the COVID-19 affected the facility and its residents. The center was a vaccination site when the vaccines became available, so Turner said she feels well-prepared for the delta variant, with plans to say proactive and safe.

The event took on a festival atmosphere, with outside activities as well as big windows available for residents who chose to watch from inside. Community sponsors donated items to make the party complete and the food, music and entertainment was free to residents and their families.