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My People Fund Update

It’s hard to believe but the monthly distribution of assistance from The My People Fund is coming down the home stretch. It has been quite the journey and although we have not crossed the finish line, as this project winds down, I find myself thinking of all that has transpired over the last five months.

The numbers speak for themselves: two weeks from inception to distribution; more than $10,000,000 raised, 12 days of distribution, 100 committed volunteers, and 900 families gifted $6,000 to help them along their road to recovery.

However, for me, it is not the numbers that will leave the lasting impression, but rather it will be the people and their stories that will remain forever close to our hearts. Time after time, people shared their stories of literally running for their lives. Harrowing escapes from burning homes down dark and treacherous roads and frantic calls to friends and families not to reassure them but to prepare them for possible tragedies. These are stories no one can ever forget.

Equally powerful have been the stories of recovery. For starters, the humbling enormity of the outpouring of support and assistance from next door and from literally around the world. As one gentleman shared with me just two weeks after the fire, “It is an awful thing to lose the home where you raised your family but if this had to happen, I thank God it happened in Sevier County. What people have done for my family is beyond my wildest expectations and I will never be able to repay them for their kindness and generosity.”

As people shared his or her experience with us, one cannot help but notice just how unique the road to recovery is for each person. For some, the money we provided helped them stay current with their mortgage (on a house that no longer existed) so their insurance would not lapse. For most of those who rented, the funds provided the means to find temporary rental housing. One moving story I personally witnessed was a young twenty-something woman who had been forced by circumstance to seek a room in a less than desirable situation. When I handed her the funds, she broke down crying because now she had the ability to escape and secure a better situation. After she composed herself, the emotion gave way to determination as she stood up and said, “By the end of the day I will be out of there. Thank you, thank you.”

The road to recovery for each family may be a few months, a year or two, or even the better part of a lifetime. Although everyone will write their unique story of recovery, the one common thread shared by all is the unconditional generosity bestowed upon our county. The millions of people who have chosen and continue to spend their vacations with us have developed their own bond with this area. They have their special memories of a very special place. Fire didn’t destroy the thick culture of southern hospitality and mountain tough resolve of the people here. Visitors understand that their relationship with the people of Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, the National Park, Pigeon Forge, Sevierville and Gatlinburg is exactly why so many of them chose to give so much.

Dolly stepped up to lead the response so it seems only fitting that her words also lead us into the next chapter of our story:

I can see the light of a clear blue morning
I can see the light of a brand new day
I can see the light of a clear blue morning
And everything’s gonna be all right, it’s gonna be okay.


Editor’s Note: The My People Fund provides $1000 a month for six months to the families who lost their primary residence in the Sevier County wildfires. The non-profit is a collaboration of The Dollywood Company, Dolly Parton’s dinner attractions and the Dollywood Foundation. This guest post is written by David Dotson, President of the Dollywood Foundation. His account of the area’s recovery is a testimony to why so many view the Smokies as #someplacespecial

By | 2018-01-10T15:50:05+00:00 April 24th, 2017|Community|0 Comments

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With multiple people contributing to this blog, our hope is to provide a broad range of topics so everyone can find something of interest to them. Some of our contributors have lived here their whole lives, while some have moved here recently. Others are frequent visitors to the area, and others have only been here a few times. The one thing they all have in common? They all have a love and appreciation for the beautiful area we call the Great Smoky Mountains.
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