Project now underway to place fire escapes within housing agency

Published 4:27 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2018

If you ask Emma Grindstaff, the past couple of days have been a surreal experience.

Since the passing of her daughter, Dana Keeling, and granddaughter, Sara Keeling, to an apartment fire at Pine Ridge Circle, Grindstaff and family members have held various events to remember the Keelings and raise awareness about fire safety in the agency.

After a recent meeting with Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency officials, the Elizabethton Fire Department and the TLC Community Center, Grindstaff learned that her dream of seeing fire escapes on each of the apartments made it one step closer to reality.

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“I met with Kelly (Geagley), Andy Hardin and Angie (Odom) and learned that HUD gave us the OK to raise funds to buy ladders to go in each of the apartments,” Grindstaff told the Elizabethton Star. “Due to the cost of placing ladders on each of the apartments, were are now able to raise funds to purchase ladders with hooks that can be placed in each of the 150 upstairs units. I was so thrilled about the news that I cried.”

With the mission object in clear sight, Grindstaff added the goal is to raise the necessary funds. After receiving a deal on ladders thanks to Big John’s Closeouts, Grindstaff added the goal is to raise $4,200 during the month of February to have ladders in each apartment. Each ladder will be mobile and can be used to exit out of any upstairs window in an apartment.

“I had a dream after Dana and Sara passed. It was Dana and I remember her saying ‘momma, save the children’ … that’s why I wanted to do this. I can only imagine them dancing in heaven now after we got the OK to do this,” Grindstaff said with a smile.

Individuals can visit or search “Safekeeping Project in Honor of Dana and Sara Keeling” on Facebook.

Geagley said he was excited to see Emma’s hard work pay off and that he appreciated the work she put in on the initiative.

“She’s worked hard on this since day one,” he said. “Anything we can do to help, we will. You can help but admire her heart and dedication. We want to have these items in place to help families. She’s worked to turn a tragedy into something great to remember Dana and Sara.”

The TLC Community Center is also accepting donations on behalf of the project. Individuals can mail donations to 145 Judge Don Lewis Blvd., Suite 5-7, Elizabethton, TN 37643 and are asked to make a memo on the payment to make sure it is going to the safekeeping project due an account being set up specifically for the funds. Each donation is tax-deductible.

Angie Odom, director of the facility, said TLC was more than happy to help with the project with Sara being part of the program’s different activities.

“Sara was such a sweetheart,” Odom said. “When we heard about what happened, it was heartbreaking. We wanted to do our parts to make sure we can help and honor Dana and Sara.”

Along with the ladders, Hardin — fire marshal with EFD — will be holding safety classes with EHDA. The agency will also present a plaque honoring Dana and Sara to commemorate the impact they’ve made in the community.

“I think we can get these ladders in with the donations,” Grindstaff said.  “Every day that there isn’t a ladder there is a day someone could lose their life again. I just want to say thank you to everyone that has helped with the project.”