More than five months after wildfires ravaged portions of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Dolly Parton hasn’t stopped surprising her hometown fire victims with her generosity.
In December, Parton announced her My People Fund and promised each family who had lost its primary residence in the fires $1,000 a month for the next five months. When Parton arrived this week to help dole out the final payments, she brought the nearly 900 families an unexpected bonus – another $5,000 each for a total of $10,000.
She also revealed another surprise – the creation of the Mountain Tough organization to provide ongoing support to fire victims over the next three years and the pledge to fund it with at least $3 million.
Mountain Tough will start June 1 and pick up where the My People Fund left off. Its goal is to help individuals and families impacted by the fire by providing resources for low-income individuals and families in Gatlinburg and the surrounding areas with an eye on the long-term needs of those impacted. The organization will be staffed with case managers who will identify the immediate needs of residents and the most effective ways to use funds to help, which could include transportation to a job or medicine for health conditions caused by the fire.
“It makes me feel humble,” Parton said of being able to raise and donate money to the fire victims. “It makes me feel proud that I’ve been able to do something. But I don’t put myself on any kind of pedestal for doing this because it’s the right thing to do. I’m a Smoky Mountain girl, and I’ve been blessed in my life to become a celebrity. And when you’re in a position to help, you should help.”
The Sevier County area is rebounding from the blaze. Parton said, “everybody has pulled together and things are back to normal ... “All of Sevier County is really up and running,” she said. “It’s better than ever.”
For more information on Mountain Tough, visit www.mountaintough.org.