Sevier County Rescue Squad needs help, volunteers for Gatlinburg fire evacuees

Howe Leifheit and The Happy Church from Jackson Kentucky donating pillows (Sevier County Rescue Squad)

SEVIERVILLE (WATE) – At 2 and 3 a.m. in the morning trucks are rolling into the Sevier County Rescue Squad’s headquarters with donations for evacuees of the fires in Gatlinburg and Sevier County.

The Sevier County Rescue Squad has been collecting donations, but organizers said they are running into a huge problem: no shelves. They also need tarps to protect items from the rain and packing items so they can get items to the people who need help the most.

“Some of the specific things that we are needing and are having a hard time getting our hands on is that we are plowing through shrink wrap. We are in desperate need of some form shelving. We spent about nine hours on the phone yesterday contacting random places and trying to find out about shelving and the answer we are getting back is a collective ‘no’ because they have already exhausted all of their donation resources, because there is so much need in this area right now,” said volunteer coordinator Jenn Stiver.

Items needed:

  • Shelving
  • Packing supplies
  • Shrink wrap
  • Pallets
  • Tarps

Want to donate? Contact the Sevier County Rescue Squad

Volunteers like Stiver have been working around the clock. She said they have more than one hundred volunteers working to sort items and make calls to hotels to get items to families that need help the most.

“We feel like the community has been very generous in their donations and we want to make sure that we are generously giving to people who have gone through such a tough time right now,” said Stiver. “So, it’s some of the not necessarily donation items that are going specifically to them, but things that we really could use. We have one room, just a huge room and it looks like a grocery avalanche and we have been trying and trying to get shelving and we cannot secure shelving, nor can we afford to go out and get shelving.”

Donations from Rush County, Henry County and Shelby County, Indiana (Sevier County Rescue Squad)
Donations from Rush County, Henry County and Shelby County, Indiana (Sevier County Rescue Squad)

The rescue squad also needs volunteers to help unload trucks and sort donations. They have everything from baby items to a grocery store.

“We have a registration process that we’re having them follow. We’re verifying ID, residency and that they were indeed in the affected part of the fire and after we go through that process, then we find out what their needs are we donate personally. We’re not just sending out generic packages, we’re customizing what their needs are,” said Stiver.

Stiver said the donations from the community have been overwhelming. The Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads has set up their headquarters in Sevierville to help with the organization.

“It’s been very overwhelming. There are some people that are coming in here and they are very shy about it. They’re very timid. There are some people that are having a difficult time asking for help, but they really need it,” said Stiver. She said some people have lost their homes, vehicles, jobs and even family members.

The Sevier County Rescue Squad will stay open with goods for as long as they are needed. They said they want to make sure that everyone gets back on their feet.

Some of the volunteers coming in to help are actually displaced evacuees themselves.

“We start asking them what they need,” said Stiver. “‘Do you need socks, do you need underwear, what do you need?’ and that realization occurs the moment you see that look cross their face and they realize, ‘Oh yeah I do need that.'”

Even with the overwhelming amount of donations, they still need specific items. They have received a huge amount of things like crackers and snack cakes, but they aren’t receiving enough canned meats. They will go in weekly bags for families of four and six.

Organizers are also having a difficult time getting the word out to those that need help. They are asking for anyone who needs help to stop by their address at 1171 Dolly Parton Parkway in Sevierville or call (865) 453-4809.

Want to volunteer or donate items? Contact the Sevier County Rescue Squad’s volunteer coordinator:

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