Nestled on Second Street and Savannah Avenue in McAllen is a new, temporary home — a home that is nine stories high and well-known for handing out the warmest chocolate chip cookies to its guests upon arrival. A home that is currently housing the hands and hearts of nearly 200 nurses from all over the country. A home that serves as an oasis away from reality day in, day out.
DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Hotel is a hotel loved not only by guests but by locals, as well. Lately, their hospitality has exceeded all expectations, as their lobby is filled with a lot more than just warm cookies.
Wander through the halls at any given moment in late summer, and you would witness cartloads of snacks, coffee, and Girl Scout cookies — along with dozens of handwritten thank-you cards dropped off nearly every day.
When the pandemic struck the RGV in the summer of 2020, nurses from all over the country made their way into our community to assist our overwhelmed, overworked healthcare professionals as Valley hospitals reached capacity. Nearly 200 of these nurses were housed at the DoubleTree.
After learning about their newest guests, DoubleTree Suites Director of Sales & Marketing Andrea Rodriguez-Cavazos called everyone at her disposal — from friends to community leaders to the mayor and city commissioners — and challenged them to come together and make sure our healthcare workers felt appreciated.
The first sign of appreciation was demonstrated by Debi Chavez of Debi Lou Productions. She heard of Rodriguez’s mission and, shortly after, Miss South Texas Teen Angela Yvette posed for a photo with a homemade thank-you poster that was shared on social media platforms.
Rodriguez wanted to make the nurses feel more than just welcome. She wanted them to feel appreciated, and so the Wall of Love and Gratitude was born.
Local tourism site Explore McAllen caught wind of the movement and shared that post on their page as well, encouraging others to volunteer and send any token of appreciation Rodriguez’s way. After this, many people joined the movement and did what they could to show their appreciation.
Rodriguez was ecstatic to see that the community has shown their support and love for our healthcare workers — not only for the ones visiting but our local heroes, too. She even took on the task to organize a drive-by event where people could attend and cheer on the nurses as they returned to the hotel from their shift.
After being with DoubleTree for 17 years, hospitality runs through Rodriguez’s blood.
“Hospitality is all about making people feel like they’re home away from home,” she said, “It’s the best part of my day.”
Rodriguez emphasizes that this all wouldn’t be possible without the support she’s received from all angles. “It’s been such an amazing thing to see the community come together,” she said. “And there are so many people to thank for their efforts. Everything was greatly appreciated.”
Valley natives have purchased sweets from Bonhomia and other local restaurants, Chick-Fil-A and Stars donated $5 coupons, and Siempre Natural donated meals. People have donated masks, coffee, bags of snacks, and tangerines to show gratitude for the nurses.
If there’s a key takeaway Rodriguez has gathered from this experience, it’s that there is a silver lining in the times we are experiencing. Her goal was to bring the nurses joy after a long shift of being in the front lines of the pandemic, and the support she received to help garner that has been overwhelming.