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Lakeland hotel sees random acts of kindness as rooms fill with evacuees, pets

Polk County

LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – There are random acts of kindness taking place during Hurricane Dorian. They are everywhere.

People are going the extra mile to help others who are in need and hurting.

One such case took place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Lakeland, where many evacuees were seeking shelter from the approaching storm. 

8 On Your Side found out that a stranger paid for a woman’s room. We were told someone wanted to help after seeing a woman crying in the lobby, talking about how she was struggling to make end’s meet as she evacuated Melbourne Beach in order to take care of her family. 

That stranger paid the bill.

Also, businessmen who are regulars at this Hilton hotel, situated directly across the street from Lakeland Linder International Airport, were reportedly calling with offers to cancel their reservations this week, so that evacuees would have rooms available.

They said they wanted to free up those rooms for people who needed to get out of the storm.   

In fact, many evacuees from the east coast are doing just that – getting out of the storm.

Many say they have spent the last two days driving across the state, looking for places to stay. Since Orlando hotels were reportedly full, couples like Gene and Shelly Greenberg from Vero Beach traveled to Polk County, along with another couple. 

The foursome will now ride out the storm in Lakeland at the Hilton since their home is under mandatory evacuation.

“You just try to get as far west as you can to get away from the ocean,” said Gene. “Number one, we wanted to be able to get a room. Number two, we did not want to be in traffic.” 

Gene tells 8 On Your Side he remembers what it was like back in 2004 when multiple storms battered the state, including his home. He and his wife lost everything that year. So, with Dorian moving closer, they decided to leave early and seek shelter from the storm as close as they could. 

Their plan? To stay put in Polk County until they get the all-clear back in Vero Beach. 

“It’s difficult not knowing,” Shelly said. “That’s the most difficult part, not knowing, what you’re going to face when you go home.”  

Angela Perry was also seeking shelter from the east coast, which she said, was “extremely difficult.”

“It’s very hard, it’s very hard. It took us two days to find a place, a hotel that was open to take us, so they were wonderful to get us in,” Perry said.

At this point, shelters have not been activated just yet in Polk County, according to the director of emergency management. The county remains on a partially activated status. They too, like so many, are watching and waiting to see what the storm does and where it goes.

They tell 8 On Your Side they are ready with a plan to activate shelters and emergency services if needed.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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