As the effects of Hurricane Irma continues to be felt, one veteran-managed hotel in Tennessee is offering free rooms for evacuees.
Despite remaining vacant for nearly a year undergoing renovations, the Budgetel Inn and Suites in Chattanooga, Tennessee has decided to provide complimentary rooms to anyone impacted by the storm.
“There is new bedding, linens, and towels, we just need to do some touch-up work,” said Casey Steinman, an Air Force veteran and general manager of the hotel.
“A tremendous amount of local resources have been donated to what we’re doing here, it’s fantastic.”
Steinman along with the owners of the hotel knew they could provide some much-needed relief to those in the strong storm’s path. After gaining approval of the local fire marshal, the hotel started 9:00am Saturday providing around-the-clock support. Additionally, the fire marshal said they could officially open for business and start charging for the rooms, but Steinman and the hotel said they would provide shelter for free, or not at all.
Steinman and one maintenance official are the only employees providing near-constant support to those affected by the storm, the rest are volunteers.
The area, located just off exit one of Interstate-75, had at one point the most hotel rooms in either Georgia or Tennessee. “This is absolutely a main artery, up and down the east coast,” says Steinman. With extremely heavy traffic coming from the Gulf Coast of Florida, hotel rooms quickly filled up, and Steinman spotted people sleeping in cars on the side of the highway.
The Budgetel Inn was a welcome, but a surprising refuge. That’s because many of the people arriving that got wind of the hotel thought it may be a hoax. When they arrived tired, frustrated, and afraid the reaction was overwhelming.
“To come find out it was true and real, and to offer to help for free, some broke down in tears,” said Steinman.
Helping people is nothing new to Steinman who served as an avionics technician working on the B-1, and B-2 stealth bomber, at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota from 1992-1994.“I gained a lot of leadership and experience by taking care of my fellow airmen, all of that was learned during my time in the Air Force,” says Steinman.
Steinman moved his family back east after a short stint in New Mexico just in June, but is emerging as a leader in a time of crisis. “I’m still learning my way around the area, for sure,” says Steinman.
Currently, the Budgetel Inn has just two vacant rooms, but will offer free stays to anyone impacted by Irma through Friday. “We will reassess the storm, and its aftermath Saturday, to see if we still need to be open,” says Steinman.
The Budgetel Inn and Suites are located at 1410 N Mack Smith Road, Chattanooga, Tenn., 37412.