HISTORY & HERITAGE EXPLORER: ‘B&Bs for Vets’ born in West Virginia

By Kathleen Panek, History & Heritage Explorer

In 2008, Gillum House Bed & Breakfast posted on its web site: “In honor of Veteran’s Day, the Gillum Room would be available totally free of charge to anyone with a Military ID.” Then, in 2009, nine other members of the West Virginia Bed & Breakfast Association joined Gillum House for Veteran’s Day. In 2010, it was taken nationwide.

It went viral. And the website “B&Bs for Vets” was born. By November 11, 2010, there were 900 B&Bs in the United States, 11 in Canada, 2 in Mexico, and 1 each in Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Paris, France, and Namibia participating in the program. In 2011, BBCanada, Canada’s bed and breakfast directory, started their own “B&Bs For Vets.” As of this year, there are 13 participating B&Bs in West Virginia.

The only stipulation insisted upon when it went national was that it is stated “It started in West Virginia.”

Here are the requirements:

  1. One (1) room available totally free of charge for one night on Nov. 10 or Nov. 11 (There is no “buy one, get one free,” but guests may purchase a second night if they choose).
  2. Reservations are taken, as any other with credit card number
  3. All policies of the B&B apply regarding cancellations
  4. Upon arrival, a military ID or Veterans Administration ID wipes out the charge
  5. Military members are told when making reservation if they are late, cancel or are a no-show, they will be charged

We tell the veterans and their spouses that this is a thank you to not only the military veteran, but also to thank the unsung hero: the spouse who takes care of everything on the home front during deployment and moving to the next duty station. No one thinks to say thank you to the spouse.

We innkeepers, get a feeling of satisfaction from this that cannot be described. And the Veterans are saying thank you to the innkeepers, as we are thanking them! It is a joy to show our Veterans my West Virginia and provide a tangible “thank you”! I am looking forward to booking my two couples for 2019.

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I am Kathleen Panek. I grew up in Brooke County West Virginia, spent 24 years in Illinois raising 6 children, and my husband rewarded me by bringing me back to West Virginia to open a bed & breakfast. In my former life I was in data processing with a major defense contractor and also worked part-time as a relief night auditor for over 10 years at several large hotel chains. I am in my 24th year as owner/host of the Gillum House Bed & Breakfast in Shinnston, West Virginia I currently serve on the Board of a United Kingdom B & B Association, am a seasoned advisor to WVBBA, and City Clerk in the City of Shinnston.

This post was last updated on March 1, 2022