GATLINBURG (WATE) – Janice Hendrix has stepped down from her role as the executive director of Mountain Tough Recovery Team. The organization says Jeff Conyers, who currently serves on the board of directors for the organization, was appointed to serve as interim executive director.
“We’ve listened and formulated a strategy going forward that Mountain Tough is going to pursue that’s been in the works,” said Conyers. “Our leadership team is going to advance that strategy very very quickly going forward.”
The non-profit focuses on helping people dealing with the November fires in Sevier County. Dolly Parton announced in May that the remaining $3 million from the My People Fund would go to the Mountain Tough Recovery Team as they work to transition leadership over from the immediate disaster team.
The organization began meeting with wildfire victims on June 1. Since that time, leaders say they have given nearly $30,000 in assistance to help victim with everything from medical and transportation issues to finding stable housing.
“It’s probably been two weeks ago now that we received our 501(c)(3) status that we can operate like a not for profit,” said Conyers. “This really loosens the reigns on how we can interact with the public and how we can distribute money in particular and now we can raise money.”
Mountain Tough said they are taking a three-prong approach to helping. Their programs works one-on-one with families to provide financial assistance to renters and homeowners impacted by the fires.
The non-profit said they are also vetting candidates for home rebuilds. Mountain Tough, along with the Appalachian Service Project and Volunteer East Tennessee, are working to construct new homes to replace ones that were lost. They said are also working to clear build sites and prep land to make it ready to rebuild homes.
Mountain Tough said anyone seeking assistance should complete a pre-application at their website. Anyone without internet access may call the Mountain Tough office at (865) 436-8112 to start their application. Once an appointment is scheduled, applicants will meet with case managers to review their circumstances, determine eligibility and set goals to advance their recovery process.