Gatlinburg wildfire recovery groups transition to charity organizations

GATLINBURG (WATE) РOrganizations in Gatlinburg to help wildfire survivors are in transition mode, including the Mountain Tough Recovery Team.

It’s a central clearinghouse to help the hundreds of families who lost so much that night in November. Last week, Dolly Parton handed out the final My People Fund checks and announced the remaining $3 million from that fund would go to the Mountain Tough Recovery Team.

Previous story:¬†Dolly Parton on My People Fund, what’s next for foundation

Chris Dunaway feels he’s one of the lucky ones, recently purchasing a new home in Pigeon Forge. It’s going to take a lot of time and money getting him back to a sense of normalcy.

“There are so many answers and so many things out there. I want help for all my friends who can’t afford this,” he said.

Soon, wildfire survivors just like him can turn to the Mountain Tough Recovery Team. They’re working right now to establish their 501(c)(3) status as they transition leadership over from the immediate disaster team.

“We have five case managers on board now and an administrative assistant. We plan to hire a sixth case manager,” said Janice Hendrix the newly hired executive director.

She says they know of more than 900 families and individuals needing help because of the Coordinated Assistance Network. Over the coming weeks they’ll be linking wildfire survivors to help based on their needs, anything from rebuilding a home to counseling and everything in between.

“There is no timeline. Anyone can come in and be assessed with a case manager and work with a case a manger on any unmet needs,” added Hendrix.

It’s too soon to know how much money the organization has, because their balance essentially pools donations made to a number of groups for wildfire survivors.

“The local county government and the city government have provided administrative funds for us,” said Hendrix.

Dunaway says he knows the charity will do wonders helping hundreds who survived that night in November.

“There’s still need in this community and it will be a long time,” said Dunaway.

Mountain Tough Recovery Team is still developing a long-term plan on helping wildfire survivors. They’re creating a fundraising committee so that they’re balance never drops to zero. Their new office will be located at 906 E Parkway, behind the CNB Bank, in downtown Gatlinburg.

Hendrix says they’ll have resources on finding jobs as well as transportation for families. If you’d like to request help or donate, you can visit the organization’s website by clicking here.

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