Raging wildfires in Eastern Tennessee earlier this week have consumed an estimated 15,000 acres in the Great Smoky Mountains and displaced more than 14,000 residents in the surrounding county. Many evacuees were forced to flee their homes without warning, unsure what they might return to, if anything.
The news of the devastating fires instantly brought back memories of childhood camping vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains – lots of s’mores, fireflies and nature. But, more importantly, I began to think about the families – the parents, the children, and the elderly – displaced. The thought of a helpless child without clean diapers saddens me, in any situation.
Upon the heels of #GivingTuesday, let’s make it a #GivingWeek. Here’s how to help those affected by the wildfires locally:
- Email [email protected] if you or someone you know is aware of a specific family in need. Several of the City Moms Blog Network sister sites, including Cincinnati Moms Blog, will be sponsoring a family to help them get the specific items they need.
- The quickest and easiest way to donate those affected by the Sevier County wildfires is through the American Red Cross. The organization is accepting monetary donations for evacuees and first responders. Those interested can make a $10 donation by texting “REDCROSS” to 90999.
- Nationally, the American Red Cross is accepting donations at redcross.org/donate, or you can print a form and mail it to American Red Cross, PO Box 37839, Boone, IA 50037-0839. You can sign up online to volunteer after the fires also.
- Another effective option – check out Friends of the Smokies, a non-profit organization developed to fund historic preservation, wildlife management, environmental education and more in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Donate here.
- The Knoxville Expo Center, 5441 Clinton Highway, is collecting items with a focus on babies and children: toys and board games, baby items (including baby food, diapers, pacifiers and baby wipes), and other child and baby needs. Boxes also are requested.
- LeConte Event Center at Pigeon Forge, 2986 Teaster Lane, is accepting over-the-counter medicine (aspirin, Tylenol, Tums, etc.); baby and child needs (diapers, baby and children’s clothes, stuffed animals, coloring books, games); adult undergarments, men and women, all sizes; toiletries (deodorant, feminine hygiene products, lotions, soaps); blankets and towels; and plastic bags.
- Remote Area Medical, 2200 Stock Creek Boulevard in Rockford, is collecting Gatorade, water, cat/dog food, eye drops, antacids like Rolaids or Tums, and energy and power bars. RAM is also accepting monetary donations on their website at www.ramusa.org. For information, call 865-579-1530.
- Wilderness at the Smokies resort, 1424 Old Knoxville Hwy., Sevierville, is serving as both a collection and distribution point for new or gently used clothes, blankets and towels; diapers and wipes; baby formula; personal toiletries; bottled water; and nonperishable snack items.
- The Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley said it is no longer collecting pet supplies but has set up a Fire Relief Fund for the Sevier County Humane Society, “because they will have many expenses with cleanup and repairs, plus the costs involved in caring for the animals. Donate online at https://www.youcaring.com/seviercountyhumanesociety-702875.
- Knoxville Pays It Forward is joining with local TN radio stations Star 102.1 and Q100 to collect water, snacks, protein bars, Gatorade, socks, eye drops, blankets, baby wipes, pet food, animal crates and animal-care items.
Additionally, the Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless is already looking to the future for fire victims. The nonprofit coalition, which serves 12 counties, has 37 member agencies who are coordinating a “long-term plan,” said Jen Patterson, education and fundraising coordinator. “After the fire clears, there’s going to be a need for sustainable housing,” said Patterson, who said the group is currently working with Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries to go into the shelters and provide trauma counseling. Later, the coalition can put people who have lost their homes into case management and help them find long-term housing. For information, visit tvchomeless.org. To donate money, call 865-859-0749. For those who have lost their homes, the Homeless Assistance Hot Line is 888-556-0791.
Tennessee Emergency Management Agency said Sevier County residents can indicate their status with the American Red Cross at the organizations Safe and Well website: https://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php.
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop