As some people begin the recovery process in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tenn., people in Southwest and Central Virginia are doing what they can to help.
Dozens of people dropped off donations all day on Wednesday to fill a truck outside the Roanoke Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
“I just feel really bad for the people that live there and then the people working so hard and just wanted to see if I could do something to help them, even if it was something small,” said Mary Long, who donated supplies.
All of the supplies in the truck are headed to Gatlinburg for the firefighters and other first responders on the scene of the devastating wildfires.
“I was watching the local TV station from Knoxville and knew we had to do something,” said Donald Gillette, president of Because We Care Ministries, which organized the collection.
For Gillette, the cause is deeply personal.
“It’s pretty hard because I was raised there, and it was a small, quaint, little town, and now so much of the town that I know is gone, and it will never be back,” he said.
Gillette said he still has family in Gatlinburg. His relatives are safe, and the motel his family owns has not been damaged, he added. But he said he knows some friends who have lost everything.
“We just trusting everybody’s okay, and we’re going to do what we can do,” Gillette said.
Because We Care Ministries collected a wide range of donations, from water and Gatorade to protein bars and chapstick. Gillette’s son Casey is driving the truck to Tennessee.
“If the roles were reversed, I would hope somebody would help us,” Casey Gillette said. “You never know, but it’s just good to…help your neighbors.”
“Like I said, it will never be back, but they will rebuild it,” Donald Gillette said. “It’ll be new and better than ever.”
Several organizations across Southwest and Central Virginia are collecting donations for first responders and victims of the wildfires.
Some of those groups include the Radford Police Department, which is collecting donations of supplies for first responders, and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, which is accepting relief supplies for victims of the wildfires, according to officials.
In addition, God’s Pit Crew in Danville is ready to respond with assistance once specific locations and the level of response needed have been determined, according to organization leaders.
The truck of supplies from Because We Care Ministries left for Tennessee Wednesday night, but monetary donations are still being accepted. To donate, click here.