Affinity Living Group’s DJ Buff Named 2019 Argentum Hero for Efforts During Hurricane Florence
HICKORY, NC–When Hurricane Florence hit in September 2018, one of Affinity Living Group’s youngest employees became one of its greatest heroes.
Supplier Relations Coordinator Zachary “DJ” Buff, of Hickory, was the first to volunteer to drive into the path of the storm, logging 1,000 rain-drenched miles, crisscrossing eastern North Carolina to lend a helping hand to both residents and staff.
Buff has now been recognized nationally for his efforts, presented Tuesday with a 2019 Argentum Hero Award for Leadership in the Face of a Natural Disaster.
“I am so honored to receive this award,” Buff said. “I always want to make sure the residents are taken care of—that’s what brings me joy in my job. During the hurricane, that meant I needed to be in our eastern communities to help however I could, so that’s where I went.”
At Carteret House, a community that had to be evacuated ahead of flooding that damaged the building, he raced to pull the linens from the residents’ beds and gather their clothes—with no power and an inch of water throughout the building. He then took all the washing to the laundromat himself.
“Every time I called to check on him, and encouraged him to come home and rest, he said, ‘This is my passion. I will not sleep in my bed until the residents are sleeping in their beds,’” said Chief Financial Officer Bryan Starnes.
At Onslow House, he helped residents onto the buses during the evacuation, then did the heavy lifting to load their belongings and supplies. He cleaned dozens of residents’ rooms in preparation for their return. He stayed behind after the community had to be evacuated a second time, working diligently to secure all the residents’ medical records, then pack, label, and ready their personal effects for transport. Residents often referred to him as “that nice young man.”
“DJ has always been one to go toward wherever problems, danger, difficulties are,” said VP of Finance Shana Bonner, who was tasked with recruiting volunteers during the storm. “He’s never shied away from where he can be the best help.”
On September 29, day 17 of his “deployment,” D.J. made a detour on his way home to visit his seventh and last community: Eagle’s Pointe in Goldsboro, NC, which was a host community for some of the evacuated residents—just to make sure the staff and their new guests were doing alright, he said. He was the last member of ALG’s Home Office staff to return home.
“During Hurricane Florence, DJ was a hero because he stepped up and went,” said CEO Charlie Trefzger. “Because of his fantastic attitude, his great outlook, his optimism and his desire to serve the residents, he has been an outstanding leader in our company.”
Buff, 21, joined ALG at age 16 as part-time Treasury Assistant. Since then, he has worked in the Finance department and cheerfully assisted every other department when help is needed—from coordinating major projects to compiling reports to staffing special events and the front desk. He is currently working toward his career goal of becoming a licensed Assisted Living Administrator.
“It’s all about caring for the residents,” Buff said. “That’s why we’re here at the end of the day.”
A video about Buff’s award can be seen here.
With more than 120 communities in six states, Affinity Living Group, is the largest senior housing provider in the southeastern United States. Affinity’s mission is to provide a full continuum of housing and care services for older adults, delivered by a team of passionate and respectful professionals, at locations throughout the United States.