In a story that has warmed the hearts of many, a Chicago Realtor is being hailed for her act of kindness that has snowballed into a bigger effort to help the city’s homeless keep warm during the recent polar vortex.
Candice Payne, 34, kicked off the effort last week when she “impulsively” charged 30 hotel rooms to her American Express card after realizing how hazardous, and potentially deadly, the sub-zero temperatures would be for Chicagoans who had nowhere to go, CBS Chicago reported. Payne said she posted about her plans on Instagram, and it wasn’t long before the donations and other offers came rolling in.
“Maybe they didn’t know how to or where to start to help, so I’m glad that I was able to be that vehicle,” she told the station.
Payne not only put dozens of homeless people up in a hotel for the week, but she also paid for passenger vans to ensure they made it there safely.
Payne’s husband and eight other volunteers from the South Side also joined the relocation effort after over 100 people were left to face the bitter cold when a propane tank used as a source of heat suddenly exploded last Wednesday. The blast prompted Chicago fire officials to remove the tanks from the “Tent City” camp off Roosevelt Road altogether, according to The Chicago Tribune.
The group pooled their funds and, together, were able to rent 60 hotel rooms for dozens of homeless men and women.
“We had to accommodate everyone. It was really overwhelming,” Payne told The New York Times. “They were so appreciative. They couldn’t wait to get in a bath and lay in a bed.”
The newspaper reported that Payne also purchased toiletries, food, lotions and prenatal vitamins and assembled care packages for those in need. Local restaurants also donated trays of food.
So far, Payne said she’s spent about $4,700 on the hotel rooms and other materials. Her efforts have since inspired other folks to pay it forward, according to Robyn Smith, the manager of the Amber Inn. Smith said she reduced the prices of the rooms in an effort to accommodate as many people as possible as other Good Samaritans began calling and anonymously paying for lodging at the hotel.
Local men Jermaine and Robert called Payne their “angel” and said they were grateful for the help of the other volunteers.
“We don’t get that type of help,” Jermaine said. “I really needed them at that point, so they came right in time.”
Payne said she’s been overwhelmed by the amount of support she’s received.
“I am a regular person,” she told The New York Times. “It all sounded like a rich person did this, but I’m just a little black girl from the South Side. I thought it was unattainable, but after seeing this and seeing people from all around the world, that just tells me that it’s not that unattainable. We can all do this together.”
Watch more in the video below.