Salvation Army lieutenant helps those stranded at hotel
By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor
Alabaster Salvation Army Lt. Jamie Leonard didn’t let a little misfortune on her end stop her desire to help those who were stranded in the wake of the Jan. 28 snowstorm.
“It is my job to take care of people in need, that’s been my M.O. all day,” Leonard said on the afternoon of Jan. 29. “How can I help people who are in need right now?”
Leonard traveled from the Alabaster Salvation Army branch to a meeting in downtown Birmingham on Jan. 28, and left the city after a winter storm dumped much more snow than forecast on the Birmingham area.
“I got a little bit south of UAB (on Interstate 65), and that was all she wrote,” Leonard said with a laugh.
After inching her way down I-65 to the Lakeshore Drive exit, Leonard was able to find a hotel with one remaining room at about 2:30 a.m.
Leonard soon found most of the people staying at the hotel shared a situation similar to hers, and noticed most of the stores and restaurants near the hotel were shut down due to the inclement weather.
“I said ‘These people may not be able to get food, because nothing is open,’” Leonard said. “So we decided we would cook at the hotel, and make it available to everyone there.”
The hotel agreed to allow Leonard to use its kitchen, and Leonard was able to get the supplies necessary for dinner at a nearby Walmart, which was closed to shoppers and serving only as an emergency shelter.
Although some roads became navigable as ice melted on Jan. 29, Leonard said she planned to stay put at the hotel to leave the roads open for parents traveling to get their kids from schools.
“I decided, ‘If the roads are still bad, the parents getting their kids from school are the priority, not me,’” Leonard said.
For the about 300 people stranded at the hotel, Leonard’s gift came at a perfect time.
“There are a lot of folks here from out of town who are stuck here,” Leonard said. “I’m just doing what I can to help.”