Tim Nicolai, and his wife, Nancy, at the Arena Motel
In 2004, Tim Nicolai, and his wife, Nancy, bought a 26-room motel in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Tim, a former steel worker, says he was looking for a calm place to retire...but he never expected to be hailed as a hero.

A few months after Tim and Nancy took ownership of the Arena Motel, he says a homeless mother and daughter came there looking for a warm place to sleep. "We had rooms available, and she didn't have a roof over her head," he says. "We gave her a place to restart her life, and that's where it all began."

Since then, Tim and Nancy say they have given shelter and free meals to hundreds of people in need. Some stay for free, while others pay what they can. "We're on a mission here," Tim says. "The mission is to make people's lives better."
FROM: An Oprah/People Magazine Exclusive: Heroes in Hard Times
Published on May 19, 2009
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