The death toll due to the wildfire in the Smoky Mountains continues to grow, and at last check around 1,000 buildings have been destroyed, according to the Associated Press.
While officials search for who may have started the wildfire, relief workers are scrambling to help the 14,000 people who fled their homes.
- Lakeland woman organizes donation drive for Tennessee wildfire victims
- Jamie Cardin's family lives in the Gatlinburg area
- Hundreds of items have been collected for the wildfire victims
Lakeland mom Jamie Cardin is just one woman in the Bay area doing what she can to help. Her grandmother, best friend, and the rest of her family live in the Gatlinburg area.
“We were just there six months ago. A lot of memories are there,” said Cardin.
When the stay-at-home mother of six heard about the wildfire on Nov. 29, she immediately created a Facebook page called, “Help Gatlinburg,” and invited several hundred friends to donate clothes and household items to the people in need.
“I only invited about 500 of my friends, and now its up to about 3,000,” said Cardin.
Within four days, her home was full of donations, as well as ten drop off business locations.
“I think it’s amazing. I think it’s wonderful. It’s what we should do,” Cardin said.
By Friday, kid-friendly business “Jumpin Jax” offered to let her use its space to organize the donations. Its owner also offered to watch her kids, while Cardin and her friends packed the donations.
Cardin, who has also done missionary work in Haiti, said having the donations sorted by age, size, and gender was one of the things her family in Tennessee recommended.
“Even though relief efforts are there, it’s not getting to everybody, you know, as quickly as it can. And so, that’s when everybody should come together and all do our own part and do what we can,” said Cardin.
“So that’s what we’re hoping that we can do and bring a little hope to people,” she said.
While the women organized and packed the clothes, Jamie’s uncle Will Dunn went live on Facebook, helping to publicize what they were doing.
“I went to southside Wal-Mart and while they were giving me crates, the young lady that was wheeling the cart out, that works there, told me to hold on. She had change for me from her Red Bull. She gave me over $80 in cash. It’s just amazing how this community pulls together for this type of stuff,“ Dunn told his Facebook friends.
Jamie said they received several cash donations, which will help them pay for the fuel needed to get to Gatlinburg. They’re taking two moving trucks, two trailers, and two SUVs to get all of the donations to the people in need. One of the trailers already left and the other trailer and trucks will head out Monday.