Nonprofits and state agencies step up relief efforts amid tornado, wildfire damage

Fairview Baptist Spanish Pastor Carlos Mauricio surveys damage to the basketball gym where a tornado struck just hours after a game at Fairview Christian Academy in Athens, Tenn.

View Our Coverage of the Deadly November 2016 Storms

Devastating Gatlinburg fires

Between wildfires and tornados, East Tennessee is reeling from natural disasters that have harmed life and limb in the Volunteer State.

A wildfire outbreak in Sevier County on Nov. 28 devastated the City of Gatlinburg and impacted the City of Pigeon Forge, causing at least 13 fatalities and a number of injuries. Many more resents went missing or are otherwise unaccounted for, and the fires also damaged or destroyed hundreds of structures.

The next day, severe weather and tornados on impacted eight counties in southeastern Tennessee, causing at least four confirmed fatalities and numerous injuries.

But a handful of nonprofits, private enterprises and government agencies are mobilizing to help the victims.


* A number of GoFundMe campaigns for Tennessee wildfire relief have raised more than $560,000, according to a news release from GoFundMe.

The company has created a centralized location for all campaigns at

* Meanwhile, Tennessee's Department of Safety and Homeland Security has announced that residents who were impacted by the state's wildfires won't have to pay for a new drivers license to replace one that was lost or burned.

Residents can apply for a duplicate drivers license, free of charge, at the Sevierville Driver Services Center on 1220 Graduate Drive, or at the agency's mobile unit.

* First Tennessee Bank has staffed its Sevierville branch with coaches from who can help with financial counseling, business recovering and document recovery, as well as insurance claims, home inspection and repair contracts.

The Memphis-based bank is also matching contributions to the American Red Cross up to $50,000.

* Legal Aid of East Tennessee is making legal assistance available to victims of the Gatlinburg and Sevier County wildfires.

Legal clinics are being planned for those impacted by the fires, and victims facing losses can have questions answered for free at

* Gov. Bill Haslam, along with Sen. Lamar Alexander and Sen. Bob Corker visited Gatlinburg on Friday, which is covered by a state of emergency declaration made the day before.

The state of emergency lasts until January 30 and makes it unlawful for businesses and individuals to gouge prices for food, medicine, construction and other necessities.

"The citizens affected by the wildfires and severe storms have already been through so much, we want to make it easier for them to receive the care and services they need as they begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives," Haslam said.


* On Thursday, Gov. Bill Haslam declared a state of emergency as part of an executive order suspending certain state laws to speed up survivors' access to health care and other services.

The state of emergency lasts until January 30 and makes it unlawful for businesses and individuals to gouge prices for food, medicine, construction and other necessities.

* The Red Cross has mobilized more than 70 volunteers to serve meals and provide shelter to those displaced by a string of tornadoes that moved through the state, according to a news release.

The nonprofit has served more than 250 meals, including food for emergency workers and clean up crews, based out of the Red Cross shelter at Keith United Methodist Church at 600 West Madison in Athens, Tenn.

* They're joined by the Salvation Army of Greater Chattanooga, which is serving emergency personnel and tornado victims in McMinn, Polk and Jackson counties. Though this is the busiest time of the year for the Salvation Army, which traditionally raises funds during the Christmas season, many bell ringers have volunteered to serve meals and beverages.

The Salvation army served nearly 1,000 meals in Polk and McMinn counties, while the Alabama Salvation Army served hundreds more in Jackson County.

* U.S. Cellular set up a temporary cell tower in Athens, Tenn., to help those affected by tornado damage.

The tower will remain in place until a permanent tower is erected and regular service is restored.


* The U.S. Small Business Administration is making disaster loans available to small businesses located in Cocke, Green and Unicoi counties to help mitigate the drought that began on Nov. 15.

The SBA can help with loans of up to $2 million with interest rates of 2.5 percent for nonprofits, and 3.125 percent for small businesses, according to a news release.