PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Kelly Ems’ SUV is packed full of trash bags and boxes. The Portsmouth woman is getting ready for a road trip on Thursday that means everything to her.
“I really love it because of the generosity of the people there. They’re so kind. I don’t know a person who wouldn’t do anything to to help if you’re in a crisis,” she said about the residents of her hometown in Sevier County, Tennessee.
Now, those residents are facing a crisis. Wildfires have swept through parts of the Great Smoky Mountains, destroying areas like Gatlinburg.
“I felt like a piece of my heart has shattered because with every picture, every video, I knew these places,” Ems said. “I knew these people and just to watch it unfold over the screen and to be helpless not being able to reach out.”
Ems is now helping. She says after getting messages from loved ones in Sevier County, she decided to make an impromptu trip to the area.
Ems says she’s working with a shelter in Gatlinburg to collect donations here in Hampton Roads.
“I’ll drive the eight hours. I’ll do whatever needs to be done to help anybody who needs me,” she said.
Ems says she received an outpouring amount of donations from residents here and for that, she’s thankful. Although she’s ready to hit the road with her four sons on Thursday, she might not be ready to see the destruction left behind.
“I grew up in those mountains. That was my playgrounds. To see it burn to the ground, it’s really hard,” she said.
If you’d like to reach out to Ems about donations, you can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.