Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries just gave away its sixth donated vehicle in a program to help wildfire victims recover.
Jaclyn and Brandon Nussbaum’s Gatlinburg house survived the wildfires, although it did suffer a lot of smoke damage. They were lucky.
Not so lucky was the family car. It was damaged beyond repair by road debris as they escaped the blaze. That meant Jaclyn Nussbaum couldn’t take her daughters, both of whom have serious medical conditions, to doctor appointments.
The family has become the sixth to receive a free vehicle courtesy of Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries. Jaclyn Nussbaum was moved to tears as she was handed the keys to a 2007 Dodge Nitro SUV.
“I can’t believe it,” she repeated as she saw the car for the first time. The vehicle was a gift from someone who learned of SMARM’s car giveaway program for wildfire victims.
The Nussbaum home on Silverbell Lane in Gatlinburg is off East Parkway not far from Roaring Fork Road. In fact the family are members of Roaring Fork Baptist Church. On the night of Nov. 28 they could smell the smoke and see fire getting near their house.
They headed to nearby Brookside Resort to ride it out before an ambulance came by and the EMTs told everyone at the resort to evacuate Gatlinburg.
A tree had fallen across Highway 321 and blocked that way out. The Nussbaums tried to drive through the Spur but police had it blocked. So was The Glades. Later the tree had been cleared enough on 321 to allow vehicles to pass through. That’s where the Nussbaums’ 2001 Kia was heavily damaged.
The family has moved from motel to motel since then. The house was so affected by smoke that they couldn’t stay there.
Thirteen-year-old daughter Sierra has immune deficiency issues that prevent her from attending regular school, her mom said. Eight-year-old Haley has severe asthma. Neither could remain in the house even though it had survived the fires.
The family is getting housing assistance from FEMA and hopes to be back in their house after it is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, but the lack of a car has been a hardship. No longer.
“This is what the car program is all about,” Dick Wellons, executive director of SMARM, said as he prepared the paperwork to turn over the vehicle.
SMARM vets those who apply for a vehicle. The conditions: Persons must have lost their vehicle in the wildfires, have a valid driver’s license and provide proof of insurance or a promise to get insurance quickly—it’s a state law. Cars are donated.
There are names on the list to get cars, but so far not enough cars to meet the need. Still, six families have been helped and more will be, Wellons said.
For information of donating a vehicle to the cars for wildfire victims program—it is tax-deductible—contact SMARM at 865-908-3153.
Feature Photo: Jaclyn Nussbaum drives away in her 2007 Dodge Nitro, which replaces a car lost in the wildfires. Her daughters Haley and Sierra look on from the back seat. The vehicle was made possible through a special program sponsored by Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries.