By Bob Fowler, Roane State staff writer
KNOXVILLE—A student at Roane State’s Knox County Center for Health Sciences collected donations for exhausted firefighters who have been combatting the inferno that has devastated Gatlinburg and the surrounding region.
Ruben Sotomayor, 29, of Caryville launched his effort Tuesday morning after seeing news reports of the widespread destruction.
“I felt I needed to do something,” he said. “They (firefighters) are exhausted. They need something to eat and drink.”
Sotomayor quickly received Roane State’s approval to set up a collection site at the college’s Knox County campus, 132 Hayfield Road. The campus is a hub for the college’s emergency medical services programs and courses.
Sotomayor took a van-load of donations to firefighters Tuesday evening and plans more trips to drop off other supplies.
“He will make sure donations get to the appropriate people,” said Shawn R. Hughes, public safety and security officer at the Knox County campus.
Hughes helped set up the collection center, finding containers and putting up signs.
Sought were contributions of bottled water, sports drinks, individually wrapped sports bar-type snacks, and first-aid supplies such as bandages, burn cream, and eye wash.
Wet wipes were particularly needed for firefighters to clean themselves, Sotomayor said.
“Imagine what an individual, tired firefighter, or medic might like when trying to cool off in a rehab shelter,” Hughes said of suggested donations. He said Sotomayor is focusing his efforts on first responders to the disaster “because they are stretched thin. He (Sotomayor) is addressing those immediate needs.”
Sotomayor, completing his EMT training, “is one of the more outstanding students,” Hughes said. “I’m proud that he’s showing the Roane State spirit.”
Also helping in the donation drive were Roane State students Rory O’Dell, Jack Dempsey, and several others, said David S. Blevins, director of Roane State’s EMS Education Department.
Sotomayor said he posted notice of his collection efforts on Facebook, and asked that the donation site be set up at Roane State’s Knox County campus because it’s a centralized location.
Contributions were able to be made from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, December 2.
More information will be added as it becomes available.