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"Mountain Tough" relief aid group will suspend operations December 20

(WVLT)
Published: Sep. 24, 2018 at 12:53 PM EDT
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The Mountain Tough Recovery Team, which started in the wake of the Gatlinburg wildfires in November 2016, will suspend operations on December 20, 2018.

The group was created to provide relief to families and individuals negatively impacted by the wildfires through what it calls "financial stewardship".

“From simple assistance by providing a new computer for a Gatlinburg Pittman student with professional photography aspirations, to enabling a significant life-changing event such as moving a client from virtual homelessness to a stable, permanent home, our dedicated Mountain Tough team is changing lives and helping Gatlinburg and Sevier County recover.” said Ellen Wilhoit, Mountain Tough Board Chair.

Of the more than 600 households who registered with Mountain Tough, 70 percent met the criteria to receive some level of assistance.

During the nearly two years the organization has existed, 640 cases have received case management services, and 26 percent of expensed funds provided registrants with rent and utility assistance during stability and recovery.

64 percent of expensed funds also provided registrants with construction, furniture and household items. 41 families enrolled in rental assistance or subsidy programs.

Mountain Tough also contributed to property clearn up at 58 sites in the Gatlinburg area, and helped with 12 new homes built with Appalachian Service Project. Three new homes are in planning through a Tennessee Housing Development Agency grant.

Overall, $3,000,000 of financial assistance has been provided since July 1, 2017. Since December of 2016, assistance from the My People Fund and the Mountain Tough Recovery Team totals 12.5 million dollars.

The next chapter of recovery will utilize the remaining My People Fund resources to address the three key needs identified by the Mountain Tough staff; mental health services, basic needs assistance, and

a new community resource for Gatlinburg.

The My People Fund, established by Dolly Parton, will work to address these areas by contributing money to Helen Ross McNabb, Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries, and The Sevier County Food Ministry.

Helen Ross McNabb will receive $100,000 to extend the provision of free counseling and support to fire survivors through June of 2020.

Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries will receive $175,000 to provide financial assistance to fire survivors through December of 2020. This assistance will be used primarily to secure and retain housing for fire survivors. The funds will be available on January 1, 2019.

The Sevier County Food Ministry will receive $225,000 to support the establishment of 2 new satellite locations in Gatlinburg. These funds will be used by the Food Ministry to procure food to fulfill the projected number of food bags needed through December of 2021, for both the First Baptist Church in Gatlinburg and Roaring Fork Baptist Church locations. These are newly established, all volunteer distribution locations to serve the Gatlinburg community. The program will be launched in January of 2019.

Any remaining funds will be held in reserve by The Dollywood Foundation to ensure there are additional funds to cover unanticipated needs.

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