Bake sale and auction fundraiser benefits fire victim and political activist
By J.J. Kindred | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tony Webb went through many tragedies in 2012 that most people wouldn’t wish on their worst enemies.
After his mother, father and half-sister all passed away of separate causes within a two-month time frame last year, his home at 3257 Louisville Road that was his childhood home burned down on Dec. 2, along with most of his personal belongings.
The town of Louisville came together to hold a bake sale and auction Sunday afternoon to benefit Webb, held at Louisville Town Hall on Louisville Road.
Residents took the time to bake many sweet treats for participants to bid on, such as apple spice, chocolate, red velvet cakes, and a various assortment of cookies and brownies.
According to a press release by Joe Gallagher, a former Louisville alderman and chairman of the fundraiser, it was being held because of misunderstandings as to what bills Webb has paid, and the lapse of his homeowner’s insurance, which would not cover any damages.
Webb serves as chairman of the Blount County Democratic Party.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “Ever since the fire people that I know and don’t know, churches from Knoxville, Alabama and Nashville have really stepped up and made contributions, and people from the local community, ensuring that we had clothing and furniture for the house. It’s been uplifting, I can say, because of the people.”
Webb lived in his home along with Steve Holcomb, whom he was a caretaker for. Holcomb got out of the home safely, but Webb was not home during the fire.
The Blount County Fire Department’s Louisville station got a call at around 10 a.m. that morning that black smoke and heavy flames could be seen from the home’s front porch, as well as the roof. Holcomb said he was cooking in the kitchen and left briefly.
A short time later, Holcomb said he saw heavy smoke coming from the kitchen area. He managed to escape but suffered slight burns when he tried to look for his dogs.
Nine Blount County fire trucks and two Friendsville fire trucks responded, with the manpower totaling about 26 people. The fire took about an hour to control.
“I had my phone off, I was at church and it was start of Advent, so we were making Advent wreaths,” Webb said. “I hadn’t turned my phone on and realized that. I turned my phone on and I had all these messages. My cousin arrived at church and told me the house was burning and didn’t look good. I made my way down and we stopped. I walked in and the view of Louisville Road of it burning...”
Webb had to pause to fight back tears.
“I grew up there,” he continued. “I was devastated. But the fact that Steve was OK, that the other dog had been seen and gotten out of the fire, I was just thankful even though the home was gone.”
Webb said he has no plans to rebuild the home.
“I’m looking for a single two-bedroom condo,” he said. “I love the home I grew up in, but there was too much yard. Steve is handicapped and can’t keep up with the yard, and I work a full-time job at Fort Sanders Regional, so it would be hard to get anything accomplished.”
Gallagher said the community recognizes Webb as “one of us,” and put aside any partisan issues politically to come together as a community to help.
‘Took a big hit’
“Tony took a big hit, and we’re just trying to help him,” Gallagher said. “There are a lot of people here that are from other parts of the county that are friends of Tony. He makes important contributions to the county in a variety of ways.
“I didn’t set any financial goal, and frankly I don’t know how much Tony needs, depending on what he plans to do in future to determine that. He needs several thousand dollars; we’re just trying to raise as much as we can to help.”
Louisville Mayor Tom Bickers served as honorary chairman of the event, while Maryville resident Marte Lawrence served as co-chair. Louisville resident Phil Malach served as the event’s treasurer.
Webb again expressed his appreciation to the community.
“Thanks is never enough for what I feel in my heart,” he said. “People ask how do you stay so strong, and it’s because of the community and because of the people. I just feel like they have lifted me up and made me strong. So may people have stepped up to help, and you get a warm feeling inside. You hear the stories and never see yourself in that situation, but now that I’m in that situation, I’m just blessed, truly.”