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Red Cross, motel provide a haven

A family loses their home to fire so the Red Cross and a Zephyrhills motel step in.

Published April 24, 2007


ZEPHYRHILLS - A young family of four walked into the Crystal Springs Inn one afternoon last month after watching their mobile home burn to the ground. The fire department called the Red Cross, which contacted the Zephyrhills motel.

"She just cried and said 'I don't even have a driver's license for an ID,' " said Linda Mitcham, who works at the motel. "They had nothing. (The house) went up like a book of matches."

With a 7-month-old and a 2-year-old, the family was desperate, and the motel was a lifesaver.

The Crystal Springs Inn provided a room for a week-and-a-half until the family could get back on its feet. They also provided essentials like clothing, food and even baby blankets. The motel's contract with the Red Cross covers up to three days, but the family stayed a week past that.

In addition to its Red Cross work, the motel provides a Thanksgiving meal for those who have nowhere else to go, as well as Christmas presents.

"We're all that way here. We wouldn't let anybody go hungry or without," said Mitcham.

The Red Cross of Pasco, which negotiates with motels in the area to serve as a landing place following an emergency such as fire, has a network of volunteers who are dispatched in times of crises.

"It's like a deer in the headlights," said Angela Bosler, a Meadow Pointe resident who volunteers with her husband on the East Pasco Disaster Reaction Team. She was with the Zephyrhills family as they watched their mobile home burning. "They go up in no time."

The Red Cross will pick up the hotel tab and provide a debit card to purchase necessities. The baby, for example, has asthma and the family needed a nebulizer.

"I really never realized that they helped people with fires," Mitcham said. "You always associated them with hurricanes."

She said most people come in late at night and stay longer than three days. The hotel doesn't worry much about the money.

Many of the 1950s motel's rooms, decorated modestly with celery green walls and quilted bedspreads, have efficiencies.

"There are five or six motels in the area, but we seem to offer the things they need at home, like a stove or refrigerator."

The motel charges the Red Cross a discounted rate of about $50 per night, and it's never been raised.

"When they have someone that's down and out, we put them up here. ... Many of them truly have nothing when they come here. Not even a purse. And many of them have children," she said.

The hotel was recognized recently by the Red Cross, which gave them the 2006 Good Neighbor Award, for a significant contribution from a person or organization that helps, said Bosler.

"This little hotel is part of my team. They always come through for us."

Motel manager Rosalind Blythe and her employees try to create a family atmosphere.

"She's just such a great person," said Mitcham. "When you work with the public a lot, it's nice to know you've reached someone."

Fast Facts:


Help the Red Cross

The Pasco Red Cross is trying to expand its volunteer base in Wesley Chapel, Dade City and Zephyrhills. For information, call (727) 862-8685.

[Last modified April 24, 2007, 00:14:49]

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