After hearing about the wildfires in Gatlinburg and the unfortunate devastation it caused to so many families, the United Auto Workers Region 8 contacted the Central Labor Council to inquire about how they could help those affected by the fire. It was then that they decided to ask their members for donations and let United Way of Greater Knoxville determine where to distribute the funds.
Shortly after the wildfire devastation, East Tennessee 2-1-1 became the official call center for all things related to the relief efforts. This provided a centralized location for people who needed help and for people who were interested in helping. This program even provided interpreters for those that could not speak English.
Disaster services were ending and there would be a transition to recovery services. The organization that emerged as the best conveyor of recover services was Volunteer East Tennessee. They opened a Volunteer Reception Center only days after the wildfires and continues to serve as the volunteer “headquarters” for the Sevier County fire recovery relief efforts.
“I would like to recommend that the very generous support from the United Auto Workers go to Volunteer East Tennessee. They serve as the lead agency in Sevier County managing all of the recruitment, registration, assignment and tracking of volunteers as they provide direct services to the Sevier County fire victims,” stated Ben Landers, CEO & President of United Way of Greater Knoxville. “As you know the United Way of Greater Knoxville was instrumental in creating Volunteer East Tennessee and they are currently housed in our building. We know them well and we believe them to be the single best agency for having long term impact in helping our fire victims.”
One of Volunteer East Tennessee’s primary focuses continues to be organizing all of the volunteers to work on sorting and organizing the warehouses being used to house in-kind donations sent to Sevier County residents. They also organize volunteers to go with homeowners to sift through the remains of their homes to find valuables.
Today, the Knoxville Oak Ridge Area Central Labor Council presented United Way of Greater Knoxville a $30,000 to assist wildfire victims recover from the Sevier County Fires.