Following the devastating fires in Gatlinburg, the staff at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum (KCAC) wanted to do everything possible to help our neighbors in need. We joined a citywide endeavor led by the Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association to collect donations for those affected by the wildfires in Sevier County.
Thanks to the generosity of our friends, patrons and community, the effort was successful – in less than a week, we collected enough donations to pack a 53-foot trailer.
“It was truly heartwarming to see the tremendous amount of support that came in not just from our area but from across the country,” said Brent Lackey, KCAC event manager. “A little boy from Urbana, Ohio, put together a drive for supplies, and he and his family drove down here to deliver them. Someone in Iowa sent 12 cases of granola bars. People from Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Georgia and Virginia brought carloads of donations down. Georgia Tech students drove up with four carloads of supplies.”
Local supporters also delivered. Employees of SMG, which manages the KCAC, donated items, and the Knoxville Ice Bears hockey team helped pack the trailer. Attendees at the Knoxville Fire Fighters Association concert on Dec. 3 helped sort and pack donations while they waited for the doors to open. Attendees of other events brought items, while others made donations after seeing information about collection efforts on social media or the news. Visit Knoxville also helped spread the word about the drive.
Donations consisted of cases of water and Gatorade; prepackaged, nonperishable food items; toiletries; blankets; and diapers and formula. We also received a large supply of dog and cat food. Additionally, when firefighters working in Gatlinburg put out a call for T-shirts, the American Diabetes Association came through with 200 shirts to donate.
To distribute items to those in need, the Greater Knoxville Hospitality Association connected us with Sunset Gap, a Christian-based organization located in Cosby, Tennessee. Sunset Gap unites worshipers of all faiths with programs that contribute to the physical, social, economic and spiritual growth of the Appalachian people.
Sunset Gap operates a thrift store and food distribution center that assisted wildfire evacuees and other low-income families in Appalachia. In addition to providing food and clothing, Sunset Gap also offered shelter for those affected by the fires.
This was a huge undertaking with many people to thank. In addition to those already mentioned, we appreciate Metro Trailer for providing the trailer and the transportation to Newport, Tennessee. We also thank the Cocke County High School football team for unloading the trailer.
We know the donations made a big difference to a lot of people, and we are so grateful to have been part of a larger effort to ease the pain for those who lost so much.