Donations, volunteers still needed after Gatlinburg fires

GATLINBURG (WATE) – Five weeks after the deadly wildfires broke out in Gatlinburg, people are still dealing with the cleanup.

Many of those people are now in some sort of permanent or temporary housing, but have nothing to put in these homes. That’s why donation centers are desperately in need of certain items.

“Just imagine what it would be like at your house if you lost everything. You’re having to replace your entire pantry, everything in your fridge, everything in your cabinets. It takes quite a bit just to get those needs met,” said Roy Helton, manager of the Boyd’s Bear Rotary Relief Center.

For the survivors of the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge wildfires, what seemed like simple everyday items are now needed donations, even one month later.

“The need has been diminishing but that doesn’t mean its gone. It just means it’s diminished. We started serving out the needs of about 2,500 to 3,000 people a day and now we’re down to 1,500 to 1,000 people a day, but there is still tremendous need,” said Helton.

Many of the needed items are non-perishable food items that can be eaten without being cooked.

“It’s kind of funny when I think about it, but our single greatest need is Pop-Tarts. Every time we put them on the shelf, they fly off during the day. I didn’t think about it but when you’re in a motel or somewhere that doesn’t have any cooking facilities, Pop-Tarts are a meal,” Helton said.

More coverage: Rebuilding Gatlinburg

Other needed items are basic household supplies like laundry detergent and paper towels. However, there are items the centers have plenty of and no longer have room for.

“Don’t bring us anymore water if you would,” said Helton. “Don’t bring us anymore dog food. We definitely don’t need any more toys of any kind right now and used clothes.”

If you have items you want to donate, there are several places still taking items, like Boyd’s Bear. Before you head out, you should call the center and make sure they are still accepting donations at that location.

The biggest need of all seems to be volunteers. The Sevier County Rescue Squad is no longer accepting donations because they have an overwhelming amount, but they now need help to get them sorted and distributed.

More online: – Find out where and what to donate, how to volunteer

“People’s in need and when the crisis first hit, of course, you have everyone pouring out to help. But what they don’t realize a lot of people is that they continue to need help even though the first part of its over with,” said volunteer Gary Dills.

People from all over the country are still coming in to help with relief efforts, but a month after the fires, what the Sevier County Rescue Squad really needs is hands.

“When the fire first started, there was a huge need for volunteers because there were so many displaced residents that were needing help immediately, but what we’re running into now is that it has been a month and a lot of these displaced residents are finding new homes to live in. They’re finding apartments. They’re finding alternative housing, but they don’t have anything. So we have the things that they need here and we can help get those into the community. but we need volunteer presence in order to do that,” said coordinator Jenn Stiver.

The volunteers are needed to sort donations, help survivors sort out items, put together hygiene bags and other warehouse-type work.

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