As local hurricane evacuees try to get back to normalcy, Lala Enterprises is providing a home-away-from-home. Since Wednesday, the business has opened its doors to those looking to escape the storms.
“We actually waived all pet policies and allowed as many pets as possible, as many groups of people in a room as possible, so that we could get as many people as possible to safe refuge,” said Executive Vice President Aneesa Lala Singh.
The business began preparing all five of their hotels in Meridian as soon as people were notified they had to evacuate from Texas and Florida. The hotels saw at least 1,000 evacuees, with the community showing support.
“Church groups come by to pay for hotel rooms, to provide diapers and toiletries, snacks. We had a retired teacher come by and provide babysitting services,” said Lala Singh.
Meridian was an unplanned stop for many evacuees. Those headed this way just drove along the interstate, looking for any place that had vacancies.
“A lot of them said they didn’t even know Meridian existed, that they just felt like god brought them here,” said Holiday Inn General Manager Kennlyn Forbes.
Many evacuees said they were grateful to have landed in the Queen City.
“The feeling that we are welcome and that we are not in any way a burden or trouble. Everybody has been so kind. That has reduced our stress level overwhelmingly.”
Now that Harvey and Irma are gone, some evacuees are headed home, some will be staying, and a few said they’ll be back.
“My husband and I have our own business. When things are settled, we’re going to take a long weekend, come back to Meridian, and stay at Home 2 Hilton because we feel like there’s family here,” said Laury Couture, who lives in Port Charlotte, FL.