An Innkeeper With A Heart Of Gold Opened Up His Hotel For Free To Strangers After Harsh Winter Storm

Stephen Smith

An innkeeper from Kodak, Tennessee is making headlines after proving that there is still tons of kindness in the world. In fact, his story won a spot in the Reader’s Digest annual “Nicest Places in America” contest precisely because of his good heart and compassion for others. The magazine contest, which has occurred annually over the past five years, aims to find out who and where the kindest and most compassionate people are, more so during this year in the time of coronavirus.

For one immigrant from India, he proved that kindness isn’t defined by race or color, but by the size of one’s heart… and apparently, their inn. During a time when the town of Kodak, Tennessee was feeling the major effects of a very harsh winter, which included freezing cold temperatures, frozen pipes, and the power shutting down all throughout town, the owner of Quality Inn, Sean Patel, chose to open up his hotel to anyone and everyone that needed a warm place for the night or week. Regardless of whether he truly had enough space in the hotel, or even enough rooms, he gave all those that walked through his front doors a place to stay and sleep, as well as food, until the shutdown electrical power came back on and people were able to return to their homes.

Despite his friends telling him that he was going to go broke from kindness, it didn’t stop him or change his mind from opening up his hotel at all. In fact, his friend Steve Smith, who actually nominated Mr. Patel and the Quality Inn to RD’s “Nicest Places in America” contest, shared, “I frequently ask him to dial it back because I know he’s spending so much of his own money and energy to help others, but he has such a big heart, I know he will only give more.”

Mr. Patel explained that he was once an immigrant in America, arriving in Tennessee from India back in 2004, and he was overwhelmed with the goodness and kindness that everyone showed him. And it’s because of this that he chose to open up his inn to anyone that needed it at that time.

He explained, “I saw how much people helped each other in the South and it got to me. It’s not always about money. Sometimes you just need to talk. I always wanted to be that kind of person.”

In fact, it was something that seemingly came naturally to Patel. The Kodak resident even shared on social media, “If you can get here, we will take care of you.” And even though the inn was at full capacity, he still made sure to accept those that came through his doors, finding them areas to remain warm, whether in the inn’s lobby or even the pool area.

Throughout the weeks that passed in between Christmas and New Years of 2020, the inn’s 60 rooms were all booked, some of which held at least eight or nine adults at once. Meanwhile, other guests happened to stay in the meeting rooms and other open areas just to be somewhere warm. Even some of the rooms that were supposed to be under maintenance were used by guests staying in the lobby so that they could take showers. But Patel’s hotel staff made sure that they sanitized them efficiently after every use.

Amazingly, Mr. Patel even shared that everyone involved ‘came together’ in ways that he hadn’t experienced before, including some guests paying for the rooms of others. He also shared that everyone shared their food, while the hotel staff chose to open the breakfast station so that people wouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal would come from.

Incredibly, Mr. Patel chose to open up yet another one of his hotels a bit later on that year, except this one was located in Texas. The Segovia Lodge also became home to a number of Texans after they were hit by a harsh winter that caused a number of power lines to fall, and pipes to freeze over as well. Mr. Patel once again covered all the costs of people that came to his hotel to stay, and also eat, for an entire week. Some guests happened to walk to the hotel to seek shelter because their cars couldn’t get them there.

At one point though, the hotel itself also lost electricity, but thankfully there were a number of truckers that happened to be stranded at the hotel as well that managed to keep a fire going throughout that time. And once again, when the rooms of the hotel were fully occupied, he chose to offer his lobby as another area where people could stay and shelter in place.

Despite having over 200 people remaining in the hotel, there were no issues or problems that occurred. Reportedly, no one fought or argues, and everyone made sure to look out for everyone else, whether it was to make sure they were warm and comfortable, or taking turns to cook to make sure everyone had a decent meal.

The hotel manager, Shelly Shirley, said, “It wasn’t about who was Black, White, Democrat, Republican. COVID, or no COVID, everyone was a family.” And even after the storm was over and families returned back to their homes, the guests of the Segovia Lodge have remained friends and in contact through a Facebook group, where they continue to check up on each other and share news about their current lives.

“Business is down, but I still have clothes on my back, the kids were safe, we had a shower and food. We all have to look out for each other,” Mr. Patel added. And whether he realizes it or not, Mr. Patel has gone on to prove that sometimes kindness is all the world needs to foster unity and common human decency.


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