How You Can Help Survivors of the Gatlinburg Fire

In Cover Stories by S. Heather Duncanleave a COMMENT

Read more about the Gatlinburg fire here.

There are a myriad of funds started to help survivors of the fires in Gatlinburg; here are three with wide-ranging impact.

The Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation has established a Gatlinburg Relief Fund to directly impact families impacted by the wildfires. The fund is being managed by East Tennessee-based SmartBank, which has multiple branches in Sevier County. To contribute, drop off a donation at a SmartBank branch, or mail it to P.O. Box 1910, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868-1910. Checks should be made payable to “Gatlinburg Relief Fund.” The foundation also accepts online gifts at

The Dollywood Foundation, which has already committed to donating $1,000 a month for six months to families whose homes burned down in the Sevier County fires, is accepting donations to help those who lost their homes at any Tennessee State Bank location or at, where applications for assistance can also be found. Tennessee State Bank, headquartered in Pigeon Forge, has 15 locations which can be found at tnstatebank.comDolly Parton has announced she will also be hosting a telethon in Nashville on Dec. 13 with all proceeds going to the fire victims.

The Tennessee Valley Coalition on Homelessness is seeking donations to help an estimated 200 people who lost their homes—including rental housing—to find permanent housing. The coalition is the lead agency for home placement in the counties surrounding Knoxville, including Sevier; it pays rent and utilities for the first month of housing, provides clothing, food, job coaching, and will pay fees to replace items like drivers’ licenses and birth certificates that were destroyed in the fires. All donations made to the coalition’s website ( until Jan. 15 will go toward assisting Sevier County residents who lost their homes, including many who lived in a weekly rental motel that burned to the ground, says fundraising coordinator Jen Patterson.

Plus: To volunteer to sort and distribute donations or do other on-the-ground recovery work in Sevier County, go to the Volunteer Reception Center (a building that says “Theater” on the front) at 1304 Parkway in Sevierville between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to be assigned a job for the time you have available. Bring your legal ID, dress warmly and bring your own food. For more information visit

Go to or call 2-1-1 for current and accurate info on relief efforts.

S. Heather Duncan has won numerous awards for her feature writing and coverage of the environment, government, education, business and local history during her 15-year reporting career. Originally from Western North Carolina, Heather has worked for Radio Free Europe, the Institute for War and Peace Reporting in London, and several daily newspapers. Heather spent almost a dozen years at The Telegraph in Macon, Ga., where she spent most of her time covering the environment or writing project-investigations that provoked changes such as new laws related to day care and the protection of environmentally-sensitive lands. You can reach Heather at

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