Volunteer Spirit (Update with link to volunteer site): A guide to directly helping those affected by the Sevier County fires

From Barker Lounge
From Barker Lounge

If you are looking to Volunteer, sign up for a shift here.

The numbers are staggering: At least 14,000 Gatlinburg residents have been displaced by rapidly escalating wildfires, an estimated 1,600 buildings have been damaged or destroyed and the count of dead and missing persons continues to rise.


In the midst of such arresting devastation, however, myriad individuals immediately began mobilizing in a loosely organized yet strongly concerted push to provide relief and support to victims of the disaster. After an understandably chaotic period during which communication proved difficult, these efforts are taking a more tangible shape in Sevier County.


In order to consolidate the sometimes overwhelming amount of donations, a few select locations have become centralized hubs for those affected by the fires.


If you’re looking to make sure that donated materials get directly into the hands of those in need, the primary place accepting donations is Boyd’s Bear (formerly the American Bandstand building), located at the end of Cates Lane just before the Spur connecting Pigeon Forge to Gatlinburg. In terms of supplying those in need, the enormous red barn is home to the lion’s share of donated products. Access to the building is available by taking Highway 411 south to the point where emergency crews have blocked the road to Gatlinburg, turning left across the highway and following the road up the hill. There you’ll be greeted by an oversized vinyl poster of Dick Clark. Volunteers will direct you to the appropriate locale in order to drop off donations.

Boyd’s Bear (Barn)

Current donations include used clothing, toiletries, water, food, books, toys and several other useful items. The roomy interior of the building is organized by sections, but volunteers are on hand to help navigate those needing assistance. Currently, they are well-stocked with regard to water and used clothing, but the staff is in need of laundry detergent, contact cases/solution, first aid products, Tums, diabetic needs, Neosporin, shoes (especially large men’s sizes), women’s undergarments, phone chargers, aerosol deodorant, hairbrushes/combs, bags/suitcases and things to hold belongings, face wash, shaving cream/razors, allergy medicine (Benadryl), Pepto Bismol, children’s cold medicine, cough medicine/drops, scrubbing gloves/loofahs, hypoallergenic soap, vitamins, hair care products/grease/balms/softeners, new socks and underwear in kids and adult sizes and especially gas vouchers and gift cards as the holiday season approaches. In addition to supplies, Mobile American Job Center trucks and representatives of multiple insurance companies line the perimeter of the grounds.


Hours of operation are 9 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1-4 p.m. on Sunday. Depending on circumstances, hours may be extended. And, at least for the foreseeable future, it will be open until there is no more need.


For those looking to donate time to the cause, Boyd’s Bear also provides an opportunity to help. There are a few different ways that volunteers can apply their skills and strength at this location. Organizers need help with unloading incoming vehicles and sorting through said material, but there is also a need for personal shoppers. These volunteers help displaced members of the community go through the amalgamation of donated goods in a mannerly fashion, all the while consoling those who have lost necessities in the fires and serving as friendly faces to strangers in unimaginable suffering.


Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt greets those who donate at Boyd’s Bears location in Sevier County.

Spearheading the efforts at Boyd’s is a dedicated team of leaders, among them Dennis and Kate Clabo, Anita King, Eric Bradley and Jessica Bookstaff Doppelt. The latter is particularly welcoming; at one moment, she logs donated items and from where they came, and at the next wraps her arms around a family looking for direction.

Volunteers wishing to lend a hand at Boyd’s are encouraged to visit https://www.volunteeretn.org/HOC__Volunteer_Opportunity_Details_Page?id=a0Co000000ElZ3G and schedule a shift

Other volunteer opportunities for unloading and sorting goods are available at the Sevier County Rescue Squad, located in Sevierville at 1171 Dolly Parton Pkwy. This is another facility that ensures that donations are distributed directly to those in need. The main contact is Nikki Smith, who can be reached either at (865) 228-7537 or (865) 453-4809. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) also can be contacted concerning volunteerism at (866) 586-4483.

Inside Boys'd Bears donation/pickup location
Inside Boyd’s Bear donation/pickup location

It is important to keep in mind that not just humans have been affected by this week’s events; unfortunately, many pets have been displaced, as well. The Sevier County Humane Society has been working overtime in hopes to recover and catalog missing animals. Two additional sister operations have been instrumental in both reunifying pets with their owners and boarding animals whose owners are unable to care for them currently.


The Barker Lounge and Pets Without Parents, both located in Sevierville, are seeing to it that dogs, cats and other varieties of pets are well taken care of during the crisis. Combined, they have space for a minimum of 100 animals, and – as is the case with the other drop-off spots – they are receiving a wealth of donations. Everything from food, water and treats to beds, crates and cleaning products has been pouring in to both locations. At these businesses, you’ll likely run in to Lory Souders (owner of Barker Lounge and Co-Founder of Pets Without Parents) and Cindy Morton. These two woman, along with the rest of the staffs of the two businesses, are paying it forward by boarding animals of displaced pet owners free of charge and supplying donated goods for the same low, low price.


The Barker Lounge is located at 1301 W. Main Street., and Pets Without Parents is at 901 Mize Lane. In order to accommodate the inundation of calls and questions, the Sevier County Humane Society has set up shop at its namesake fairgrounds at 754 Old Knoxville Highway for the short term as well.


To be sure, the volunteer spirit is alive in well in East Tennessee. Donations have profusely spilled out from businesses in the region and beyond. Sevier County native Dolly Parton has established the “My People Fund,” which will give each family that lost their homes in the fires $1,000/month until they get back on their feet. A firefighting squad from Oregon made the trip to Sevier County earlier this week. A woman from Lexington, Kentucky, drove to Boyd’s lats week and offered to donate her Cadillac STS and subsequently rent a car to get home (UPDATE: This happened). In Knoxville, loads from Central Flats and Taps and Downtown Grill & Brewery also made it to the center, as did a generous shipment of toys and comic books from Raven Records & Rarities. Various other businesses and media outlets have become harbors for donations as well.

lineWhile the need is immediate and omnipresent at the moment, it will take folks who lost everything quite some time to recover. As such, we will update the list of crucial items over the next several weeks as the situation continues to evolve. In the meantime, we ask our readers to consider volunteering in whatever capacity you are able and to donate to local businesses that are lending support.


If you know of a shelter or area that is accepting donations that will go directly to those in need, or if you know of a volunteer opportunity, feel free to share it with us at rusty@blanknews.com

UPDATE Sat, Dec 3, 1:27PM:

Another distribution center is open at Wears Valley First Baptist Church located at 3504 Wears Valley Road Sevierville, TN 37862. The Center will be open on Saturday, Dec 3rd until 6pm. Sunday Hours are 1pm-5pm.

For those displaced by the fires in this particular area, visiting Wears Valley First Baptist Church may be more convenient for some in need of clothing, provisions and supplies.


For those affected by the fires in need of EMPLOYMENT ASSISTANCE
via Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has the following locations available to assist displaced workers in Sevier County.

Boyd’s Bear Community Resource Center, 149 Cates Lane, Pigeon Forge
This center will remain open seven days a week until services are no longer needed.
Monday-Saturday, 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

American Job Center, 1216 Graduate Drive, Sevierville
Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 3, 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 4, 1:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m.

There will also be a mobile American Job Center in Cocke County next week to help workers displaced by the wildfires.

Monday, December 5, 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Newport Community Center
Tuesday, December 6, 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., National Guard Armory
Wednesday, December 7, 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., Newport Community Center

Mobile American Job Centers are a computer resource center where dislocated workers can go online and apply for unemployment insurance benefits. Trained staff are available to assist people applying for benefits. Workers should bring as much information as possible with them, including bank account numbers, or an address where they can receive a debit card. Unemployment benefits cannot be issued at the mobile career centers.


To make the processing claims as efficient as possible, it is critical employers file a MASS LAYOFF LIST at http://www.tn.gov/…/article/disaster-unemployment-assistance. This list will enable the department to bypass usual investigations into claims and approve claims in the fastest possible time frame.

via Tennessee Housing Development Agency

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency encourages landlords in areas impacted to update rental listings on TNHousingSearch.org and to offer short leases for those who have been displaced by the disaster. TNHousingSearch.org, THDA’s rental housing resource website, helps renters find housing and provides a venue for property owners/managers to list housing. The service is free for both landlords and potential tenants. Property owners and managers are invited to call 1-877-428-8844 or visit TNHousingSearch.org for assistance.

Second Update, Sunday, Dec 4, 5:36 PM

~Items needed at donations locations now include pallets, shrink wrap, clothing racks, boxes, bags, tape, sharpies, phone chargers, phone minute cards, can openers, work boots, large trash cans, buckets, gloves, trash bags & school supplies.

~ The Boyd’s Bear donation hub in Pigeon Forge does not need any more used clothing. Volunteers wishing to lend a hand at Boyd’s are encouraged to visit this link to sign up for a shift.

This will help ensure that you will not be turned away due to overwhelming support and lack of need. While the weekend shifts were accounted for, as folks have gone back to work, need may pick up through the week. Call first to be sure.

~ The Leconte Medical Center/Thrift Store (next to First Baptist Church, 441 Parkway, Sevierville, TN) is accepting donations. Contact the shop at 865-428-2586 for hours and needed items.

~Smoky Mountain Jubilee (across from the Titantic Museum, 1063 Dolly Parton Pkwy, Sevierville, TN) is also accepting donations. The Jubilee’s phone number is (865) 654-7878.

~ The Sevier County Humane Society (set up at the Sevier County Fairgrounds) could use volunteer help, especially in the evenings.

~ If you are a worker in the service industry and lost work due to the fires, here are some of the places that may be able to help in the Knoxville area.

Looking for all positions
Club LeConte, Downtown Knoxville
800 S. Gay Street Knoxville, TN 37929
5 serving positions
2 cook positions
Crown and Goose, Knoxville
123 S. Central St. Knoxville, 37902
Sunspot, Knoxville
2200 Cumberland Ave. Knoxville, TN 37916
Looking for people for the new Bristol location, possibly other locations.
Nama, Downtown Knoxville
Looking for all positions
506 S. Gay Street Knoxville, TN 37902
Big Fatty’s, Knoxville
5005 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919
Market House Cafe
36 Market Square Knoxville, TN 37902
28 Market Square Knoxville, TN 37902
Anaba Japanese Cuisine
9405 S. Northshore Dr. Knoxville, TN 37922
Downtown Grill & Brewery
Looking for a couple of positions
424 S. Gay Street Knoxville, TN 37902

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  1. Sherry Griffith ( Jacksboro Midfle School)

    I can help organize a group to help with the sorting, storing, and distribution from Campbell County if we are needed. Please call or message if we are needed. Supply’s have been being sent from the beginning and we have a few smaller donations as well.


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