Nurse heals hearts of hurricane evacuees

Lisa Cox painted rocks for children of Hurricane evacuees to find while they were staying at a hotel in Etowah. (IMAGE: Lisa Cox)

A nurse from Etowah rallies the community to help heal the hearts of Hurricane Irma evacuees.

In this week's Pay It Forward, Newschannel 9's Jessica Harthorn found out how her hobby of hiding painted rocks connected her with families in a time of need.

As Hurricane Irma was barreling down on Florida, Lisa Cox was making a surprise visit to a hotel in McMinn County in the middle of the night. The idea started with a passion for painting rocks.

Lisa Cox is a member of the McMinn County Rock Group on Facebook. It's a fun way for people to hide inspiring messages for strangers to find outdoors.

And it was at the Red Roof Inn in Etowah two weeks ago, Lisa's friend Misty says she got a great idea.

"She noticed due to Hurricane Irma making everyone leave Florida, that she noticed a lot of tags here were from Florida. So she got the idea, let's make them welcome here in Tennessee," said Misty.

Lisa put out a plea for help on Facebook and within hours the donations started pouring in, snacks, books, water, clothes, even pet supplies. They created 20 gift bags for 100 Irma evacuees staying at the hotel.

"You know they came with just clothes and they're wondering what's happening with their home back in Florida," said Misty.

Misty lured Lisa back to the hotel, telling her there were "Thank You" cards waiting from some of the families. It was the perfect excuse to sneak up behind her in the hotel lobby.

"Hi! I brought you here because we appreciate everything that you have done for the community, and all the donations you got together for the Florida evacuees. So on behalf of Newschannel 9 and the McMahan Law Firm, we'd like to Pay It Forward to you. Put your hand out, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Thank you for all you do!" said Misty.

After the emotional surprise, Lisa showed us where she hid the painted rocks around the hotel property.

"I had them hidden in the plants, we came around this way," Lisa said. She says she wanted the kids to find encouraging messages that read "Florida Strong" and "We Care."

"Just to see the smiles on their faces, I mean these people had no idea what they were facing when they went back," said Lisa.

Lisa tells us her gift baskets not only brought comfort to the evacuees, but the rocks also sparked new friendships. "God said go love on these people, and that's what I did," said Lisa.

Do you know someone who deserves $500 cash for helping make the world a better place? Nominate them here.

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