FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - First responders, whether they are hurt on or off the job, find that in their time of need there are limited resources available to help them get their lives back on track.
One paramedic from Florence County knows this all to well and is now using her story of tragedy to help others.
Tessie Smith was seriously hurt in an ambulance crash in March, which resulted in multiple fractures and the loss of one of her legs. The wreck changed her life forever in a matter of seconds.
Through her recovery, she said she discovered that there are really no agencies dedicated to helping individual first responders or their families when they find themselves in a time of crisis.
"Holding The Line" is meant to change that. It's a newly founded 501C(3) with a mission to, "serve, honor, inspire and empower members of the First Responders Family."
Smith will be the organization's first recipient.
"When the people that help you need help, we want somewhere we can turn to also," Smith said.
"Holding The Line" was born out of her own pain.
"We had nowhere to turn other than our community and the people that I worked with and family," Smith said. "When it came to trying to make my house wheelchair compatible, there's nothing out there for EMS people, fire department, any of that that comes in and helps you do that. And that's when my family and I sat down and said something's got to be done."
Insurance and worker's compensation can only go so far. This organization would also help first responders who are hurt while they're not on the clock.
"It's not a local problem. It's nationwide," Smith said. "We tried to find even things out there further that might could help, would help, and there's nothing there. That's why we're expanding to put something there for everybody and not limit to Florence or South Carolina even."
Smith has spent her life giving back to others. Now, "Holding The Line" will become her hands and heart to continue what she loves to do.
"I can't physically go and help people now, so this gives me a way to still do what I enjoy doing," Smith said.
The organization was just launched. While its first mission is to help build a wheelchair-accessible home for Smith, its future is only limited by the community dollars that help fund its projects.
"It makes me feel really good. It's also a little scary to say is it going to make it," Smith said. "That's all we can do is try, and if we help one family, that's one family that didn't have to do it on their own."
Right now there's a campaign underway to buy individual pieces of Smith's new home, a single brick, or window or even the kitchen sink. However, organizers say any donation is appreciated.
To get connected, call (843) 773-1736.
Officials said they are looking for partnerships with police, fire, EMS organizations or individuals who feel led to assist with this effort.