A North Carolina business owner went above and beyond to help families stranded in the ice and cold. He turned his gas station by day into a safe haven for the night.
33-year-old Sarah Kelleher was on her way to Nashville, Tennessee, from Columbia, South Carolina, when the temperature dropped to 28 degrees and the rain began to freeze and accumulate on her windshield.
She realized it was not safe for her to continue on the road. When she pulled off the next exit, she spun out and slid off the road.
However, she was glad she found a minivan in the grass and assumed the travelers had a similar experience. When she saw nobody in the car, she walked to a nearby gas station. She was the second person to walk into Saluda Truck Plaza owned by Hitesh Patel. Colson was already there with her four children.
Kelleher said, “I was just sitting there crying because I was just really scared and panicky at the moment.”
The business was scheduled to close at 10 p.m. that night, but Patel let the families spend the night in the gas station lounge. He brought in cots for them to sleep in, a space heater to keep them warm, and a television to keep them entertained.
Patel said, “I saw one of the girls. She looked like my niece. She lives in Lincolnton, North Carolina, so I said if that would be my sister or niece, then anybody can do it, so I said just leave it open.”
Kelleher said she was grateful for Patel because she had nowhere to go. She added that she might have tried to get back on the road if it was not for the business owner.
LaShea Colson, the mother whose children got a warm place to stay for the night, calls Patel “an angel.”
Her kids decorated Post-it notes to thank him for his kind gesture.