Mission accomplished: Grindstaff, volunteers deliver 130 ladders to EHDA

Published 5:01 pm Thursday, May 17, 2018

With help scattered across Pine Ridge Circle Wednesday evening, Emma Grindstaff was having trouble fighting back tears of joy.

Over two years of engaging the community finally reached its conclusion as Grindstaff and a host of volunteers were able to distribute 130 of 150 safety ladders to Elizabethton Housing and Development Agency residents as part of the safekeeping project to honor the lives of Dana and Sara Keeling.

The Keelings lost their lives in an apartment fire in 2016 and since that time, Grindstaff — Dana’s mother and Sara’s grandmother — was able to engage community support and raise $4,200 to purchase portable chain ladders that will be used for the second-story apartments.

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“I am over the moon with this,” Grindstaff said about the completion of the project. “I couldn’t save my girls, but these ladders are going to save 150 families if there is another fire. This is just a dream come true to be able to help someone. This has been a long, tough road. It took me until February of this year to receive permission to put a chain ladder in.”

Over the course of the evening, Grindstaff received help from EHDA residents, a youth group from Grace Baptist Church and Angie Odom, TLC Community Center director. Odom assisted Grindstaff in the endeavor by serving as a drop-off point for donations. Odom and Grindstaff were able to work with Mike Barnett, with Big John’s Closeouts, to purchase the ladders at a discounted rate to expedite the process.

“They came together when the girls passed. It just seems like that love and togetherness has grown so much stronger with all of this,” Grindstaff said. “It doesn’t matter where you come from, the community cares. I don’t know everyone up here, but I love them. The hugs have been heartfelt.”

It was a feeling of love and support that lingered in the air as Grindstaff and others distributed ladders. Grindstaff would often be met with a hug and tokens of gratitude from residents during each stop during the drop off.

“It’s so emotional. It’s very satisfying and I know my girls are smiling down from heaven. That’s what makes this worthwhile. If it wasn’t for losing Dana and Sara, these tenants would still be without chain ladders,” Grindstaff said, fighting back tears.

Before the start of the event, Grindstaff visited Dana and Sara’s apartment and placed a flower near the front window to commemorate the day.

“I placed a flower at Dana and Sara’s apartment because this is in their honor,” she said. “The girls liked flowers and were crazy over glow sticks … so that covers my girls. This is all about them. No one should have to bury their children or grandchildren. With these ladders, we can give residents a chance in case there is another fire.”