By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
When a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit Haiti, the memories of a similar event occurring nine years earlier hit home for Quality Inn owner Jay Bhakta – literally.
Bhakta rallied local motel owners to join together in an effort to raise money for the relief efforts in Haiti. After one day of making phone calls approximately two weeks ago, well more than $1,500 was raised and donated to the American Red Cross.
“I think it was a tragic event to me, personally, than any other tragic event,” Bhakta said. “In 2001, Jan. 26 actually, we had a big earthquake in India. Many people died up there in the region where I am from – where my grandparents and parents are from. At that time, I think (hotel owners) raised about $9,000 – I was actually in Minnesota at the time.”
With memories of the 2001 earthquake in India that coincided with the 51st celebration of India’s Republic Day coming to the surface, Bhakta knew something had to be done. The earthquake in India registered 7.9 on the richter scale.
“I took it upon myself and called every hotel owner,” he said. “So, basically, everybody pitched in. I think in one day it was about $1,661. Just hotel owners locally from Liberal donated the money.
“This is something I personally wanted to take part in,” he explained. “The money has already been donated to Red Cross. I talked to Sherry (Helmke), and nine of us went in there and donated the money.”
Bhakta was appreciative of all who pitched in to donate funds for the cause.
“I was happy with the effort and with all my friends support I was able to do it,” he said. “So, I am thankful to all who donated.”
Cimarron Red Cross Office Manager Sherry Helmke appreciated the generosity of the local motel owners.
“We want to thank them,” Helmke said. “It was very nice of them to put it together, especially Jay from the Quality Inn. He was the No. 1 who put that together and contacted everybody.
“A bunch of them showed up here and wrote their checks right here and gave them to us,” she added. “The Red Cross is very grateful for all donations, and we are still taking them.”