Hotels forgo profits for evacuees - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Hotels forgo profits for evacuees

September 08, 2005

Thomasville, Georgia-- Some hotels in our region are charging full price to evacuees ofHurricane Katrina who need rooms, some are even kicking them out when people with reservations arrive. But then there are other hotels that are forgoing profits to help the victims.

Hurricane Katrina evacuee Keith Gibson has lived in Biloxi since 1989, but he grew up right here in South Georgia. "When you get scared you run home, and that's what I did," he says.

Gibson has been at the Holiday Inn Express in Thomasville for more than a week now. He doesn't know how badly his home was damaged. "They can't get close enough to get in there. The road I live on is blocked off," says Gibson.

The hotel's staff has been a Godsend to Gibson, cutting his, and other evacuees' rates by more than half. "It's amazing. They've just been absolute angels. That's why I keep asking, where's your wings, I can't see them," he says.

Consider it a mission of mercy for the staff, instead of a mission for profit, a rare find in the corporate world. "Someone had to step up and help these people. It's not a normal evacuation where you're out for the weekend and then you get to go back home," says Holiday Inn Express General Manager, Stacey Powell.

That's a realization reflected in dozens of notes on the hotel's front desk, offering help and homes to cash and clothes. "A lot of the citizens have been concerned about where those items are going, and they're definitely being delivered to whoever needs them," says Powell.

Those people come from all backgrounds, and came together during tragedy, only to leave with everlasting friendships. "It seems like a million miles away on TV. But when you're here and you're face to face with these people, it's home," says Powell. "It's like leaving home again. It's really kind of hard. It's almost like bringing up the same old feelings," adds Gibson. He'll have to face those feelings a third time when he goes home, possibly in a week.

The Red Cross has begun picking up evacuees' hotel tabs for up to two weeks. After that, it works out a recovery plan with families depending on their size.

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