Non-profit rebuilding 25 homes lost to fire in Gatlinburg

GATLINBURG (WATE) – It was a big step for rebuilding Gatlinburg Tuesday as the Mountain Tough Recovery Team and Appalachia Service Project broke ground on the first of 25 homes they are helping rebuild after the November wildfires.

Glenna Ogle’s home is now a bare lot with some not-so-subtle reminders left in the ashes of what happened here almost five months ago. Her home, which once belonged to her dad, went up in flames as she prayed.

“The night of the fire, I told Him I was ready to go but I raised my hand and said I don’t want to go this way because I was right in the fire,” she said.

Among the ashes and painful memories were signs of rebirth as the spring flowers blossom.

“That’s the Lord’s work. They survived the fire,” Ogle said.

In that same spot, Ogle is about to receive a brand new home. The Appalachia Service Project teamed up with the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Mountain Tough Recovery Team to get the funding and volunteers available to build 25 new homes for people who lost theirs.

“Most of all who had no insurance at all, who got a FEMA settlement but that’s all the funding they have to rebuild their home and if you know a FEMA settlement there’s not nearly enough money for a person to rebuild so what we’re going to do is cobble together resources, bring in volunteers, and build homes for people who need help,” said Walter Crouch with the Appalachia Service Project. “We’ve been looking forward to this, I mean since November 28 really. I was watching things happen on television. Where I live you could see just the black wall of smoke over this direction and from that time I thought well we’re going to have to help in some way and so this is exciting to finally get started and to really help someone like Glenna is really very very special. She’s a special lady.”

Community leaders helped break ground on Ogle’s home Tuesday.

“As soon as you start seeing the 2x4s and the houses coming out of the ground, that’s really a positive effect on the whole community,” said Gatlinburg Mayor Mike Werner.

Ogle said she would never be able to rebuild on her own so she was beyond thankful for the chance to have a home there again.

“I’m 76 years old. Never had to ask for anything or get any help but now I’m getting it from everywhere,” she said. “I don’t know how I feel. I’m just full. Full of the Lord’s work and a lot of people.”

It is a new start for Ogle and another step to rebuilding Gatlinburg

“It’s sort of like the spring. You see this new growth. It’s a new beginning, and it’s a new chapter in the history of Gatlinburg,” said Werner.

The Mountain Tough Recovery Team said they are working with everyone who needs assistance after the fires, prioritizing the most significant unmet needs first. They work on a case-by-case basis to identify the needs and navigate resources available.

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