TDOC Cadets Replace Christmas Donations Lost in Fire

Tuesday, December 19, 2023 | 01:05pm

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A group of cadets from the Tennessee Correction Academy (TCA) in Tullahoma were one of the many community members to answer the Coffee County Rescue Center’s (CCRC) call for assistance after a fire destroyed hundreds of toys and donations meant for children and families in the area.

The Rescue Center, which stores toys and other donations for the Gene Taylor and Steve Graves Christmas Foundation, caught fire earlier this month – causing extensive damage to the building and hundreds of toys and donations.  Instructors at TCA learned that while insurance would cover the cost of replacing vehicles and equipment, it would not cover the cost of the Christmas gifts.

“We brought it up to our cadets and they decided to do something about it,” said TCA Instructor Matthew Isbell.  “In the span of four days, they raised about $3,100 for the rescue squad.”

With the money they donated, the cadets, who are in training to become probation/parole or correctional officers across the state, purchased hundreds of new toys, which were delivered to the CCRC on Friday.

“For us to be broken hearted, we’re also so full of love at the same time from the outreach of the community,” said Jennifer Simmons, Treasurer of the Rescue Center and Secretary for the Gene Taylor & Steve Graves Christmas Foundation.

Since the fire, the CCRC has received an outpouring of donations from near and far.  In addition to TCA, local restaurants, businesses, schools, and neighboring first responders have hosted food & toy drives, held fundraisers, and collected money for the rescue center.

“The Academy is part of the community here, and even though these cadets are only here for four to six weeks - when something like this happens - there’s no question, we want to help,” said Isbell.

The rescue center received an anonymous donation from across the country: an Amazon truck full of toys with a note that read, “It’s a very tiny drop in a very big bucket, but it comes with much love from Buffalo, NY.”  As of Friday, the CCRC had received roughly three times the amount of donations than before the blaze.