Thank you for your donations to Gatlinburg Wildfire Relief!
Thanks to the generosity of our customers and baristas, we were able to reach our match goal of $500 and raised over $1350 with the help of your donations! The money you helped us raise will go to The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, which we chose for a number of reasons.
The Community Foundation has created the Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville Emergency Response Fund that gives grants to victims and nonprofits who are providing on-the-ground immediate assistance AND long term services. The unfortunate reality of wildfires is that the effects are long lasting; people are displaced from their homes and some have to essentially start from scratch. Being able to give the money as directly as possible to the residents and people affected was important.
You can find out more about The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee’s wildfire relief efforts and donate with them here: http://www.cfmt.org/
One of our barista’s, John Mike, was moved to go volunteer to help distribute donated goods to those affected. You can read about his experience and look at his photos taken in the area in his blog post below:
Mountains. Space Needle. Aquarium. Cabins. Wildfire.
All of these words perfectly describe Gatlinburg, TN with the exception of one which is obvious. The small, tourist Tennessee town was taken by complete surprise when a wildfire exited the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, speeding down the hillsides with grander due to 80+ m.p.h. winds. The wildfire, striking Gatlinburg on Monday, November 28th following its inception on November 23rd by two juveniles, has already caused upwards of $500 million in damages. Most of the structures that were destroyed were homes of people that lived in the city leaving them with the clothes on their back and nothing else.
There is much to be done. After hearing the news and knowing people who almost lost their lives in an attempt to escape from their resort, I knew something had to be done. The news broke in under a week after the fire that Heine Brothers’ would be teaming up with Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to take up cash donations for the victims. The amount of support that has been shown at our cafes has been astounding! While seeing the cash pour in from behind the counter, I still knew that something more had to be done to help this town. That was when a roommate and I signed up to volunteer and drove straight into the area of disaster. Little did we know what we would see or hear about.
For our volunteering, we were sent to a distribution and pick up center for all the goods donated. The amount of goods donated is on another level. The country is uniting to support the people of Sevier County and have shown that with the five warehouses that are now full of goods. While the support is great, seeing the families pour into the facility to pick up the pieces of what they now call a “new normal” is heart breaking. Family after family, child after child, relative after relative now find their whole life confined to the contents of a shopping cart full of donated goods. While volunteering, I personally got to interact with people who had story after story of relatives that lost their house and business, employees that were now unemployed, families relocating across the country, and small Churches destroyed along with members losing their homes. Keeping a straight face during all of this was difficult to do. Every moment I could I would step away to breath for just a moment. You simply do not realize how big a disaster is until you see the people it affected right before your eyes.
Keeping all of this in mind, what can you do? Well, glad you asked! The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee is still accepting donations via their website which are still very much needed. But, I would encourage you to go a step further and volunteer to go to Sevier County and help. You can sign up to do just that. There is a massive need for volunteers to just sort through the donations to ensure their efficient arrival to the fire victims. Similar to how we love to keep Louisville weird with our local businesses go to Gatlinburg and spend your money at their local businesses. The continued tourism to the area will aid tremendously to the recovery of the town. Plus, you will be spending time in the mountains! Who doesn’t love a Smoky Mountain getaway? I beseech you to go to Gatlinburg to volunteer, visit, or even donate. The people of Gatlinburg will appreciate you for it.
Smoky Strong. Mountain Tough.