This story was chosen as one of the top ten nominations to win Reader’s Digest’s annual “Most Beautiful Places in America” contest – a collective effort to discover corners where people are still kind and compassionate in an era of global pandemic and division. politics. You can see the top ten places for 2021 here in Reader’s Digest. As a judge in the contest for three years in a row, GNN chose this story as one of the best.
When friends try to keep you from being overly generous and kind, you know you’re doing something right.
When last winter’s freezing temperatures froze Kodak, Tennessee, shutting off the electricity and freezing the pipes, Sean Patel, owner of the local Quality Inn, wanted to do something to help his neighbors: open his hotel to all concerned, even if he stayed. without rooms, and provide them with food and heat until the power returns.
“I often ask him to tick it off a bit because I know he’s spending a lot of his own money and energy to help others, but he has such a big heart that I know he will only give more,” says his friend Steve Smith. , who nominated the Quality Inn for The most beautiful places in America.
But Patel didn’t want to listen. The immigrant from India, who came to the United States in 2004, saw good in the people around him when he settled in Tennessee and wanted to be a part of it.
“I saw how many people helped each other in the south and it blew me away,” explains Patel. “It is not always about money. Sometimes you just need to talk. I always wanted to be that kind of person. “
So, he did what came naturally: Patel took to social media to say, “If you can get here, we’ll take care of you.” Even at full capacity, Patel would make room for those who needed it, be it in the lobby or around the pool area, just so they could have a warm place to be.
Between Christmas and New Years 2020, the hotel’s 60 rooms were fully booked and some rooms housed as many as eight or nine adults. Some guests even stayed in the lobby or meeting rooms for a warm place to be. A couple of rooms were used under maintenance so guests in the lobby could take a shower, which Patel’s team thoroughly disinfected after each user.
People came together in ways Patel had never seen before. They all collaborated. Some guests even paid for each other’s rooms. They all shared food. The hotel staff turned on their breakfast station so people didn’t have to worry.
Later in the winter, when a similar freeze hit Texas, Patel did the same with another hotel he owns, the Segovia Lodge. Power lines went down and pipes froze as the cold engulfed an unsuspecting Texas. Patel waived all fees so that anyone who could make it to the hotel could stay and eat for free all week. Guests even walked to the hotel because their cars couldn’t get through.
The hotel eventually lost power and the stranded truckers took turns staying up all night to keep the fire going. All the rooms were full, but Patel opened the lobby floor so more guests could be protected.
With over 200 people in the hotel, there was no problem. Nobody argued. Everyone made sure each other was comfortable, warm, and fed as they took turns cooking for each other.
“It wasn’t about who was black, white, Democrat or Republican. COVID, or not COVID, they were all a family, ”says hotel manager Shelly Shirley.
All the guests who were at the Segovia Lodge during the frost have even kept in touch through a Facebook group! They monitor each other and keep up with the news of each other’s life.
“Business has fallen, but I still have clothes on my back, the children were safe, we showered and ate,” says Patel. “We all have to take care of each other.”
That’s why GNN voted for Patel hotels to be the The most beautiful places in America this year, and why, if you ever need a hotel room in Kodak, Tennessee (30 minutes from Knoxville), or Junction, Texas (1.5 hours outside of San Antonio), you should definitely vote with your wallet and visit to Sean.
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