"The Eye of the Storm"

Temere & Her Team Rose to the Challenge of the "Storm of the Century!" 

An old adage goes like this: “smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.” A similar thought comes from Walt Disney who once said, “the flower that blooms in adversity is the rarest of all.”

Buffalo’s Blizzard of 2022, a “once-in-a-generation” winter storm and the city’s most catastrophic in recent memory with its 107 inches of snow, 80 mph wind gusts and negative 30-degree wind chills, tested every Western New Yorker.

But few rose to the challenge as well as OLV Human Services’ (OLVHS) own Temere Burks. Like many Buffalonians used to harsh winter conditions, Temere went to work just as she had many times before on Friday morning, December 23. Little did she know that she would not leave until four days later!

Temere is a manager at what is known as the OLVHS Intensive Treatment Program (ITP). The young people (ages 12-18) in the residence are identified with a dual diagnosis, meaning they have autism along with another disorder. Due to their conditions, any change in routine can set the teens off, trigging aggressive behaviors. Imagine, now, ALL routines being adjusted by the storm. The same staff members—stressed about their own families—every day, new activities, different meals. Seemingly, it was a recipe for disaster. To Temere the situation was just a test for herself and her team.

“For the kids, I was understanding and sympathetic that they were frustrated. They weren’t seeing the staff they usually see, they couldn’t go outside, couldn’t go on field trips, so I understood. I felt their frustration,” she remembers. “We tried to explain what was happening, but there’s only so much they could understand. They had never experienced a blizzard—I never witnessed a blizzard—so we all learned new things throughout the time!

There were a few surprises along the way. In the early hours of the storm’s second day on December 24, a fire alarm went off. For young people with sensory issues, it was a crisis event. Making matters worse, the storm had made streets impassable, meaning that Temere, her colleagues, and the residents had to stand outside in the bitter cold waiting for a fire truck to arrive. Eventually, after receiving the “all clear,” everyone settled down and went back to sleep.

As we all know, Christmas is a magical time for young people. It was no different on day three of the storm, Christmas morning. Because of generous donors to OLV Charities, many gifts were under the tree for the residents. Temere describes the scene best: “the smiles on their faces were priceless. Excitement filled the air, and it became an amazing day!” For at least a little while, the blizzard was just a memory.

While the winds and snow died down over the next few days, the clean-up was slow and travel bans remained in place. Many neighborhoods were without power and plow drivers from across the region descended on the city to help free people from their homes. Throughout, the teens at the ITP residence were engaged in a wide range of activities. As can be expected, the staff had to get creative. Playing board games, running through hand-made obstacle courses, and listening to calming music were added to the schedule to pass the time.

Reflecting on the adversity today, like any good leader, Temere is quick to highlight the efforts of her team. “They were just amazing! Now, when we talk about the storm, we kind of laugh about it. We built a spirit of community, and I would not have wanted to have anyone else with me during that experience.”

By Sister Dorothy Mueller, osf

This piece was published in Centennial magazine, a publication that is produced twice a year by OLV Charities.  For more information, or to subscribe, click here.  


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