LEXINGTON, KY — Derek Combs, a Lexington resident and long-time fan of Gatlinburg, Tenn., recently had to reschedule his annual Christmas trip to the popular tourist destination due to the wildfires that ravaged the town, leaving loss and displacement in its wake.

Now Combs, life enrichment director at Morning Pointe of Lexington-East, is turning his loss into hope with an effort to help others. He contacted the Economic Development Center, and has formed a partnership between the seniors he serves at Morning Pointe of Lexington-East and other organizations to help bring displaced families together and restore the community.

Residents and associates at the senior living and memory care community, located at 150 Shoreside Dr., in Lexington, are collecting the following items to benefit families affected by the destruction:

• Water
• Gatorade
• Diapers
• Wipes
• Feminine Hygiene Products
• Large Trash Bags
• Blankets
• Toilet Paper
• Paper Towels
• Dog & Cat Food
• Kennels or Crates for Animals

Combs says he laments the losses of the many businesses and historic sites iconic to Gatlinburg’s rich history as favorite weekend getaways, hotels and lodges are now scorched or reduced to ash.

“Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge were always the shine and brightness of my day,” he says, reflecting on his youth. “I remember my parents marking on the calendar when our trip was and I would count down the days. Each year I would have a list of activities I would enjoy while being in the Smoky Mountains.”

Today, he, Morning Pointe Senior Living communities in the Lexington area and the Economic Development Center are doing what they can to help bring the tourist community together again.

“I want to help, Morning Pointe residents and associates want to help and we need everyone’s contribution to make a difference,” Combs says. “We all need to come together.”

For more information, call (859) 721-0350, or drop off needed items at Morning Pointe of Lexington-East, located at 150 Shoreside Dr., in Lexington.