BOARDMAN, Ohio (WKBN) — Some evacuees from the East Palestine train derailment are staying in a hotel in Boardman while they wait for the go-ahead to return home.
Many of the evacuees have dogs and said it was hard finding a place that would allow animals — and not everyone was able to bring their pets with them.
The evacuees had to leave town as town as quickly as possible, and they say they’re thankful for a certain staff for going above and beyond during some hard times.
“I wasn’t leaving my dogs. I told my husband, ‘You guys can go to the hotel, I’ll stay in the car with the dogs,’ because I wasn’t leaving them. They’re my babies. They literally are my little babes,” says Neely Jack, of East Palestine.
Luckily for Jack and others in the same situation, the Holiday Inn in Boardman quickly changed its pet policy when the staff heard of the train derailment.
“We are not a pet-friendly hotel,” says hotel manager Mike Mock. “But morally, what am I going to do? I mean, I’m not going to tell them ‘no.’ It’s just not in my nature, and it’s not in the nature of my staff to deny that.”
About 100 rooms are occupied by evacuees from East Palestine, according to Mock.
The hotel even has a room filled with donated goods to make the guests’ stay a little easier: Managers from Boardman, Austintown, Liberty and Warren Walmart stores donated items such as water, hygiene products, fresh fruit, diapers and dog food to those staying at the Holiday Inn
The Walmart managers say they knew they had to do something when they saw how many people were seeking shelter at the hotel.
Lyndsey Nicastro, store manager at the Boardman Walmart, says a Facebook post prompted her to act.
“I reached out to my peers in the market, and we got together and we donated toiletries, pet food, pet treats, baby wipes, food, snacks, drinks — basically anything they needed,” Nicastro says. “We came together, we got three truck loads and brought it here for them.”
Nicastro and other hope some of the items can go back home with the evacuees once the order is lifted.
“They have been so sweet and kind, and just dealt with all this without being mean and nasty with us,” Jack says.
Barry Walker, another East Palestine resident, is having an experience similar to Jack’s.
“At 9 o’clock Sunday morning, sheriff’s department is knocking at our door, saying, ‘You have to evacuate,” Walker says.
Walker says he called eight hotels asking if his dog could stay. He was turned away by all except for the Holiday Inn.
“How do you say ‘thanks’ to a guy like [Mock]? He’s turning rooms over to kids, and rooms over for us,” Walker says.
Everyone at the hotel says it has turned into a mini-East Palestine, with many people coming together at a time of uncertainty.
“Normally, we could be at capacity, and our lobby is empty. Our lobby is bustling and it’s full of life the [last] several days,”