GREENVILLE — “They need everything,” said Carie Pope, Funeral Director for Braund Pope and Oliver Floyd Funeral Homes, referring to victims of fires that continue to burn in the Gatlinburg, Tennessee area.
According to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), dangerous wildfires that began in the early hours November 29, are still having an impact in Sevier County as local officials ordered evacuations for downtown Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and other parts of the county. Fire crews are still battling blazes in Sevier County as a heavy layer of smoke settles in many areas of the county. Sevier County officials currently estimate about 100 homes impacted in the county with 10 homes impacted in Gatlinburg from the fire. Approximately 30 structures have been impacted in Gatlinburg, including a 16-story hotel on Regan Drive and the Driftwood Apartments reported fully-involved near the Park Vista Hotel, according to TEMA.
In Pope’s line of work, helping people is part of her every day, which is why the funeral home is a drop-off zone for donations to Gatlinburg.
“We like to help people in need,” Pope said. “This is just an extension of our community service.”
They started receiving donations yesterday evening and so far have collected more than $1,200 in cash and stacks of non-perishables, according to Pope.
Due to the tremendous reaction to the need, Eric Fee, owner of Braund Pope and Oliver Floyd Funeral Home; Dave Knapp, owner of Dave Knapp Ford Lincoln, Inc. and Dick Lavy, owner of Dick Lavy Trucking, in Bradford, started brainstorming.
“Eric said the amount of items they received are overwhelming and they didn’t have the capacity to haul them down. I said, why don’t we call Dick Lavy, and Dick came in for service this morning, which was kind of a God moment,” Knapp said. “I am not responsible for the thought of it, Eric is and many others in the community are also involved.”
Out of the brainstorming session, Lavy decided to donate a 53 foot trailer and a driver. It will be parked outside of the funeral home, until it is full. They are thinking they can fill it in a day or a day-and-a-half, according to Lavy. One of Lavy’s drivers will deliver the items on a Monday.
“It’s a good cause and we want to be a part of the community and help,” Lavy said.
Another area group receiving donations are many of the police departments. Sgt. Tim Zellers of the Arcanum Police Department led a group that is rounding up donations and transporting goods to the Gatlinburg area.
According to Arcanum Police Department Chief of Police Andrew Ashbaugh, Zellers asked if the police station could do something about the tragedy. A lot of officers and friends have vacationed in the area, and Zellers and his family vacation there quite frequently, Ashbaugh said.
“Seeing the devastation and the people down there, it was the least we could do to try to help them out,” Ashbaugh said. “They have nothing. People literally have the clothes they are wearing. At first, when Sgt. Zeller spoke with me about it, we thought we may get a couple of truck loads, and it just exploded. We have really ran into a whole lot of wonderful people opening their hearts and donating to this cause. We didn’t anticipate a reaction of this magnitude. The outpouring has been wonderful,” Ashbaugh added.
Donations, such as money, diapers, paper towels, Gatorade, Clorox wipes, toys, tooth brushes, toilet paper, canned food, cash, blankets and more, can be dropped off at Oliver Floyd Funeral Home, located at 1000 N. Broadway, in Greenville, 937-548-1133.