Anyone westbound on Chapman Avenue headed toward Christ Cathedral will likely wait a few moments at the busy intersection of State College and Chapman. Health professionals and students bustle across the street to UCI Medical Center, while out of towners wait in anticipation for the Anaheim Resort Transportation bus to Disneyland. On the northwest corner, ALO Hotel by Ayres (an acronym for “Ayres Loves Orange”) evokes Southern California hotel hospitality with its blooming palm trees, rotating shuttle buses and foot traffic, and splashy orange façade.
These days, those same health professionals now stride across Chapman in masks and Disneyland-bound tourists shelter-in-place at home awaiting their favorite theme park to reopen. ALO Hotel appears shuttered, seemingly yet another victim to the COVID-19 pandemic. The street corner sign is covered up, and the parking lot is quiet. The onsite restaurant, Anepalco, is only taking curbside pickup orders for a few hours in the afternoon.
But inside, ALO has quietly transformed during this pandemic crisis from its comfortable and casual hotel setting to a working facility where registered nurses and doctors monitor individuals showing symptoms of the coronavirus. Beginning April 3, ALO entered a lease contract with the County of Orange. The nonprofit Illumination Foundation, based in Orange on S. Batavia St., which focuses on providing housing and other services for homeless people, is working with the county at the Ayres property during this time. The goal is to provide care to those unable to shelter in place and showing signs of COVID-19 to do so at the hotel.
“Ayres Hotels is a dedicated partner to all of the communities we have hotels in,” said Jim Roos, president of Ayres Hotels, in a March 30 statement. “We are happy to help Orange County during this difficult time, and look forward to business returning to normal.”
While there is currently no target date for the ALO to be returned to the Ayres Hotel collection and resume guest bookings, the county and Illumination Foundation will turn over the property in its original condition. The unique circumstance shows one never quite knows where or how service to those vulnerable to virus and disease is being met.
“This is a way for us to serve our community,” Donald Ayres III told Orange County Catholic. “This speaks to our organization values: Care about people; teamwork; and results.” These organization values stemmed out of a study the Ayres family conducted years earlier to determine what is important to its members. Now, in this age of COVID-19, those values were put to use in an entirely unforeseen way.
ALO’s collaboration with the county on helping people in need also provided an opportunity for ALO team members to stay employed. Ayres noted that team members have spent time working at the Orange County Food Bank, making masks, and delivering cookies to nearby fire stations.
This teamwork effort in outreach and service yielded a different set of results than the hospitality business is accustomed to. The result has been a profound experience for those involved.
Mr. Ayres noted how the entire process, and the work by the Illumination Foundation, exceeded anything he imagined. A deacon at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Newport Beach, Ayres connected his company’s values and its summons to serve the community as virtues that mirror those of the Diocese of Orange. “We are in this together,” he said.