Sevier County recovery groups announce next efforts

Published: Mar. 9, 2017 at 7:35 PM EST
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The Dollywood Foundation and the newly created Mountain Tough Recovery Team told Sevier County business leaders on Thursday that there's still much more need in the community, even months after wildfires tore through the area.

David Dotson with the Dollywood Foundation said that Dolly Parton's My People fund raised nearly $10M, enough to give the $1,000 a month for 6 months to families who lost their homes in the November wildfire. So far the fund has distributed nearly $3 million.

"It's rare to say you have more than enough to do what you want to do, what you promised to do, but we do in fact have the funds to do what we need," said Dotson. "We definitely have that covered, and then the remaining will also be given to folks who lost their home. We're just trying to say what's the best way to deliver that additional money."

The Mountain Tough Recovery Team is organized and plans on focusing on long term needs for three years or longer.

"We're gonna be helping people furnish homes," said Jackie Leatherwood of Mountain Tough. "And we want them to have new things. There's different programs out there, so if your company has programs that work with different organizations, please give us a call."

Leatherwood said for years she and other hospitality leaders have taken care of the millions who visit the Smoky Mountains. Now she wants to take care of Sevier County's people.

"Today our job is to take care of our own people," she said. "If you can't take care of your own people, then you're missing out on something because it gives you a good feeling to be able to help people, and these people really do need our help.

"A lot of time it is just prayers, or a special thought, or a special call or just someone to talk too. And we want to offer that to them. And so at the end of the day, in the hospitality industry, we take care of people, and I think that's what Sevier County people do best."

It's because of that Smoky Mountain hospitality, and the love people have for the area, that Dotson said people answered Dolly Parton's call to donate from all over the country.

"I always knew about, but I never realized how deep and how heartfelt and deep that ran, so it's really been one of the most amazing things to see how special this place is to people."

Dotson said people can still apply for help through My People. Right now, close to 1,000 families are getting the help.

Mountain Tough will open a Gatlinburg office with a full staff April 1.