Bangor hotel offers free rooms to Sandy victims

A Bangor hotel is chipping in to help make Christmas just a little bit more enjoyable for families on the Jersey Shore who are still struggling to recover from Hurricane Sandy.

Free Martin, general manager of the Ramada Inn in Bangor, was watching Fox News on Thursday when a segment came on about an organization helping Hurricane Sandy victims on the Jersey Shore, many still homeless and destitute, celebrate Christmas.

The segment included an interview with a mother who had to explain to her children why there wasn’t going to be a Christmas this year. Martin, who has three boys himself, sat up and took notice.

“I knew about the storm. I knew it happened a couple months ago, but I guess I lost touch with it and didn’t realize how bad things still were down there,” Martin says. “They’re normal pepole like you and I and next thing they wake up homeless.”

Spurred into action, Martin wrote an email to the organization, Operation Jersey Shore Santa, offering 25 gift certificates for free nights at the Ramada Inn in Bangor. While Jersey may be a ways from Bangor, Martin felt another connection because a lot of his clients are from New Jersey. Martin said his hotel rents about 30,000 rooms a year, and about nine percent of those stays are by New Jersey residents.

“I had some repeat customers from New Jersey who had to cancel their reservations” because of the hurricane, Martin says. “They’re not my customers anymore because things changed so much in their life because of the storm.”

Operation Jersey Shore Santa posted Martin’s letter on its Facebook page, which garnered more than 300 likes and 51 comments, including several people who said they would come stay at the hotel as paying guests in appreciation for its generosity.

“We know we are a long way from you all but we hope some victims of Sandy can find their way to Bangor, Maine, to come stay with us for a little break,” Martin wrote in the email. “My staff would really look forward to making their stay enjoyable.”

Martin didn’t realize his letter would be posted to Facebook, or that the post would include his cell phone number. More than two dozen people have called him thanking him for the generosity.

“I have people who didn’t even lose their house, but are calling up to say, ‘thanks for the generosity,'” he says. “It’s been really rewarding on a personal level to be involved in it.”

No good deed goes unnoticed. Martin didn’t realize his offer was going to make such a splash, but now that it has, he hopes it will be mutually beneficial for the families that get a free place to stay when they visit Maine and for his hotel and the wider Bangor community.

“The benefit for them is they get to plan a trip and not have to worry about lodging for a couple days, and the benefit to the business is they get to come to Bangor, they get to see what our town has to offer and hopefully they’ll put us on the list for future plans and they’ll become future customers,” Martin said.

After receiving such a response from his email, Martin upped the number of gift certificates he was offering to 50 and has reached out to colleagues in Maine’s hospitality sector to encourage them to make their own contributions to the group.

There’s been no firm commitments yet, but Martin expects a few other Maine hotels — including one that would “dwarf” his offer — to join him in trying to bring more cheer to the Jersey Shore.

“The Fox News segment was a real eye-opener,” he says. “I feel so blessed by what we have and to see what these families are going through — you wouldn’t wish that sort of thing on your worst enemy.”


Whit Richardson

About Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.