For Craig, running a hotel became a platform to change the culture of a community and impact the lives of the poor, all because he said yes to God's vision. Listen in as he shares the story, or read it below.
Most of my life I’ve lived in Pennsylvania, and I’ve been in the hospitality business for 50 years. When we were in Pittsburgh I had a hotel. Someone asked, “Will you come to Redding, PA?” and I said, “No.”
I didn’t want to go to that hotel because I knew its history, and it was broken. I was the right person for the job but I didn’t want to go—until I read about Redding. When I understood that Redding was a marginalized community it excited me. My wife and I thought, If we could move there and get the hotel right, put the culture right, and get it aligned right with the city, then we would be able to work inside the city and make a difference for people who had been forgotten.
How do you use your business model for the good of the community?
An example would be that I use my business to take in marginalized people. I have a guy who’s cooking—he’s an omelette chef in the morning—and his name is Raoul. Raoul has spent a certain number of years in jail, has had a hard time, and he’s still struggling through life. He cooks omelettes for businesspeople, and mothers and sons, and grandmas and grandpas. And they don’t know him, they don’t know his life. And they love him! They tell me every day how great Raoul is and how good he is at cooking his food.
So I tell them the story about Raoul. And I tell them that when he works here for me, just like everybody here, I give him great food. Because great food isn’t just meant for rich people, it’s meant for poor people. I tell them that I give him a great atmosphere to work in, because great atmospheres aren’t just for rich people, they’re for poor people.
I invite gang members into the restaurant. I brought ten in not that long ago. They were all 15-18 years old. I invited them in because they don’t have a dad. And I said, “I’m going to buy you dinner.” They came in and we had dinner. I had flowers on the table, because flowers are meant for poor people and gang members. I had tablecloths and cloth napkins, because cloth napkins and tablecloths are also not just for rich people, but for other people. I gave them steak and shrimp because I know they like steak and shrimp. And I gave them dessert, and they had waitress service, because they needed to see that. They needed to see that it’s for them too.
But the other side of the fence is that around them were other customers. And the customers needed to see that it’s not all just meant for them—it’s meant for the marginalized people too. It’s transforming for the children (from the gang), but my eyes were watching the transformation of the other people.
I always want to do God’s will, not my own. Because I have a different will a lot of times. My will was to go to the shore, or Lake of the Ozarks, or the Smoky Mountains. It was not to go to this. And I said, “I’m never going to go to this hotel, in Redding, PA, because it’s not gonna make it! You don’t put a 63-million-dollar hotel in this kind of area!”
Now I’m running it, and I’m excited! God’s right! This hotel is being blessed. And not only is it being blessed right now, but it’s blessing the whole street.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Craig Poole has many years of experience in hospitality and hotel management in Pittsburgh and Reading, Pennsylvania. He credits an ongoing mentoring relationship with CRM’s ReWire team with helping him to understand his career as an opportunity for ministry and mission.