The Gatlinburg fire victims are currently struggling to clean debris and make sense of the devastation they have endured in the past week. It can not be overestimated how difficult things must be for the people of Gatlinburg and the surrounding area in these trying times. It’s good to see that many people are stepping up to do what they can to help those who are suffering in the wake of the fires that have impacted so many lives.
There are two juvenile suspects in custody for starting the fire, according to Knoxville News Sentinel, and while it is good that those responsible will face justice, it is important to remember that the victims of the Gatlinburg fire still need our help. If you can make it to Tennessee, the Volunteer East Tennessee organization has a page to help coordinate Gatlinburg fire volunteer efforts on their website. According to WBIR News, the Sevier County Rescue Squad is also in need of volunteers to help distribute food and supplies to locals impacted by the fires in Gatlinburg and the surrounding area.
While volunteers are needed in Gatlinburg to help fire victims, travel to Tennessee is obviously not an option available to everyone. Generous people throughout the United States are finding ways to help the people of Gatlinburg and its surrounding areas by donating money, food, clothing, and other supplies. According to First Coast News, two sisters in Indiana, just six and 10-years-old, have decided to raffle the Hatchimals they received as Christmas gifts from their grandmother as a selfless gesture of support for the Gatlinburg fire victims.
“There was a great fire. It burned all the houses and they have nowhere to live. They don’t have anything to drive with,” said one of the sisters, 6-year-old Daelyn Freese.
Country singer Dolly Parton, who grew up near Gatlinburg in the town of Sevierville, recently expressed gratitude on Twitter for those who have donated to her #MyPeopleFund effort to raise money for the fire victims. WBIR reports that Parton will be joined by fellow country music artists Reba McEntire, Kenny Rogers, and Alison Krauss for a telethon in support of fire victims called “Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund” on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at 8 p.m. on the Great American Country network.
According to The Tennessean, a group of attorneys has also decided to step up in support of Gatlinburg fire victims, who will need help with the often difficult and confusing task of dealing with insurance companies and other legal matters relating to the fire. Kathryn Ellis is the pro bono director for Legal Aid East Tennessee, the group leading the effort.
“This is one of those situations where, especially with the legal (issues), it’s not something that’s going to be fixed or taken care of in a couple of weeks or months,” said Ellis. “We have people who are willing to help for months to come, because a lot of the legal questions won’t be obvious until they’re further in the recovery process.”
Lawyers in Tennessee and other states are encouraged to sign up with Legal Aid East Tennessee if they can offer their time and assistance to victims of the Gatlinburg fire in need of legal support.
In addition to those already mentioned, there are a number of ways concerned people can help make life at least a little better for victims of the Gatlinburg fire during these difficult times. The holidays are coming, and Christmas Place in the town of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, is holding a toy drive so people can donate toys and gift cards to fire victims and perhaps make a child smile in the midst of this tragedy. The Community Foundation of Tennessee is also collecting donations to support the affected communities and nonprofits that are helping fire victims with their ongoing needs.
The victims of the fire in Gatlinburg and the surroundings area have been through so much in the past week. It’s good to see that so many people are offering help, but the extent of the damage and its impact can not be overestimated. Any bit of help, however small, that can be offered to the Gatlinburg fire victims can really go a long way toward recovery in their time of need.
[Featured Image by Brian Blanco/Getty Images]