When news of the wildfires in Gatlinburg reached Bell County, it did not take long for people to spring into action to help those whose lives and homes were destroyed.
Monday afternoon a plea on Facebook was written by area resident Pam Eddy and within minutes she had received calls, texts and notifications of people wanting to help in any way possible. The following day, she was able to take a vehicle full of supplies to a donation site in Sevier County.
Most of the donations she had collected were to aid the firefighters who were battling the blaze in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The donations included lip balm, bottled water, snacks, breathing masks and cleaning wipes, to name a few.
“We’re mountain people and Appalachia has never really had it easy. We don’t wait around for someone to tell us when they need help, because we see it and we just go do it,” said Eddy.
Nikki Rains talked to her daughters about what was happening in Tennessee and they felt compelled to donate items to the firefighters as well as a sign that said “Praying for Gatlinburg”. While this may seem like a small gift, Eddy said this brought genuine smiles to the faces of those who were able to see it when she dropped off the donations.
”It doesn’t even seem like enough to matter, but I hope the ones who receive what we sent feel a little love and relief,” said Rains.
Eddy’s family from across the country gathers in a cabin in Gatlinburg for Christmas. This year, they will still be staying in a cabin but are taking the remainder of their budgeted Christmas spending and working on a service project for a family in need.
“This keeps the economy there since we’re staying in the cabin still, but it’s something that’s truly helpful. Everybody knows somebody that knows somebody that needs help cleaning their property, cleaning up from the fire or helping like that,” said Eddy.
Donations are still being collected in Middlesboro at the Bell County Chamber of Commerce Office until Dec. 2 at 4 p.m. as well as the Middlesboro Daily News office through Dec. 2 at 4:30 p.m.
Reach Kelsey Gerhardt at 606-302-9093 or on Twitter @kgerhardtmbdn.