Trumbull’s Stern Village becomes a village in feel as residents visit while waiting for power to return

TRUMBULL — Neighbors met neighbors with good will Thursday as residents of Stern Village commiserated with each other on the third day of a power outage created by Tropical Storm Isaias.

The storm knocked out power to the town’s senior housing complex, so residents spent their time visiting, reading borrowed books and magazines, chatting over clotheslines and meeting friends for coffee at the community gathering spot.

“There’s a lot of good people here, it’s like visiting family,” said Gus Aquino as he relaxed on the front porch of his one-bedroom apartment Thursday morning. “People walk, see who’s around, check on each other.”

Nick Vertucci, a 27-year resident of the village, said he had been strolling the village greeting neighbors, and the lack of television and internet had been no problem. With power out, he even took advantage of the unusual quiet at the complex.

“I just opened all the windows last night and it was good,” he said. A Korean War-era veteran, Vertucci said the sleeping accommodations on Wednesday, with temperatures in the high 60s, were downright luxurious in comparison to pre-storm.

“The only problem is cooking,” he said. But he planned to head to Naugatuck Thursday afternoon to spend the evening having dinner with his daughter.

Joyce Aquino said she and Gus were enjoying the quiet time in Stern Village, although the couple planned to spend nights at their daughter’s Trumbull home until power was restored.

“The battery on that only lasts for about three hours,” she said, pointing to Gus’ oxygen concentrator machine. “And it takes about two hours to charge.”

Gus said he also takes insulin, which needs to be refrigerated. That has led to him spending more time in the village’s Community Room, which is hooked up to a generator.

“There’s a microwave there to heat up food, and they’ve been making coffee,” he said. “You can charge devices and hang around.”

The Community Room also has a refrigerator which residents can use for emergency storage of medication like his insulin, he said.

Inside the Community Room, Harriet Polansky, Stern Village’s director, said the complex was operating as close to normal as possible. At least, as close to COVID-normal as possible. Outside her office, about a dozen people were sitting — masked and socially distanced — around tables or on couches, some reading or playing pool.

“People have been coming in here to charge their phones and sit in the air conditioning,” Polansky said.

Since the coronavirus quarantine started, staff members have been making daily contact with the most vulnerable of the village’s residents. Since Isaias, the daily check-in calls, which the staff abbreviates as “RUOK calls,” have been expanded to cover the entire village population.

“We’re keeping an eye on everyone, asking if they need anything, what are they planning on eating, just in general, are they OK,” she said.