Memphians head to Gatlinburg with donations, stories from community

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Last week, WREG told you about the young Cordova woman whose plan to collect donations for Gatlinburg took off. Those donations are now headed toward victims.

In less than a week, Emily McElravey’s seen the generosity that lives in Memphis.

“I’m absolutely overwhelmed," she said. "I’ve cried multiple times. I’ve heard so many stories from different people who’ve donated.”

Many donated items to the people who’ve lost nearly everything in Gatlinburg. Although over 400 miles apart, our cities have never seemed so close.

“It’s absolutely moving how Memphis has made a difference and we couldn’t do it without the help of everyone and so I’m very grateful for our community," said McElravey.

McElravey's plan to gather donations started with a post on Facebook. She put together a flyer showing different items people could drop off at nine different spots across town, and the donations piled up.

She and a friend are now taking a 26-foot truck to Gatlinburg after originally planning to stuff her own car.

Inside the truck, each piece tells a story of the person who brought it, like the elderly woman who could barely lift the bags of items she was dropping off.

“And then she ended up taking the very jacket off of her back and gave that as well, and we’re like, 'You’ve already done enough, we don’t need that,' and she’s like, 'There’s more at home,'” said McElravey.

Or the widower who donated all of her husband’s items because Gatlinburg was his favorite place in the world.

“It really just melted our hearts.”

Penske also gave them a free truck upgrade and Milwaukee Tool donated battery-powered heated jackets McElravey plans on bringing to first responders.

She and her friend are working with the group "East Tennessee Volunteers" to distribute the donations. They plan on heading back to Memphis on Friday.


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