Ruskin family helping Gatlinburg wildfire victims

Posted at 11:23 PM, Dec 08, 2016
and last updated 2016-12-09 04:41:35-05

A Ruskin family is collecting donations to drive up to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, before Christmas after a wildfire killed 14 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.

Linda Vazquez and her husband decided they wanted to help. They have traveled to the area 6 times this year. They fell in love with the tourist town.

"I would hope someone would do that for us down here, if we ever have some kind of major disaster like a hurricane. I would hope they would help us out also," Vazquez said.

The Vazquez family were in Gatlinburg when the wildfire burned through the area at the end of November.

"It was all smoky and there was a weird orange hue to the sky," Vazquez said.

Vazquez knew she could not do it alone so she turned to social media for help.

"When I saw Linda's plea on Facebook, it just kind of jumped out at me," Mandy Cassiano said.

Cassiano owns Wee Boutique in Apollo Beach. She cannot wait to help, which is why she is allowing the Vazquez family to park a trailer in front of her store, this weekend, so people can drop off donations.

If you would like to donate, you can stop by between 1 and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

"I mean it makes me feel special, but I'm not doing it to make me feel special. I just want to help out where I can," Cassiano said.

Cassiano said this week their unsold items and donations will go into the trailer to take to Gatlinburg.

It will be a long journey for the Vazquez family. They plan to leave December 17 and they hope they can spread joy to the families who need it right now.

"Sometimes you have to trust people. You gotta look for the good in everybody's hearts," Vazquez said.