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Rotary Clubs look to aid Sevier County fire victims
Gatlinburg reopened to visitors Friday.

In response to the massive and urgent need for supplies and clothing by victims of the Sevier County wildfires, McMinnville’s two Rotary Clubs are calling on their Warren County neighbors for donations of materials and cash.
David Lescarini and Dr. Mike Netherton, presidents of the McMinnville Breakfast and Noon Rotary Clubs respectively, said the civic groups will serve to collect and transport the contributed items to a distribution point established by Rotary International District 6780 in Pigeon Forge.
“The need is massive,” Rotary District Gov. Fred Heitman said in an email to McMinnville Rotarians. “We are serving between 2,500 and 3,000 people per day,” he noted, underscoring the fact thousands of people have been displaced, are living in temporary quarters and are completely without basic necessities. 
Victims of the deadly firestorms are invited to go to the Rotary distribution center at Boyd’s Bear “to get for free whatever they need,” Heitman stated. According to news reports, the fires killed 14 people, displaced some 14,000 others and charred 18,000 acres of trees and grasslands.
What’s needed most urgently, he said, are winter coats in all sizes, especially children’s, and warm gloves for all ages. Also atop of the list are shovels, garden rakes, water hoses, work gloves, mops, brooms and can openers.  
Even the victims’ pets are being cared for, thanks to Rotary and a collaboration with students and faculty at the University of Tennessee.
Donations of clothing, cleaning equipment and supplies, as well as nonperishable food and cash, may be left at all offices of Citizens Tri-County Bank; the family life center at Warren County Middle School; McMinnville Physical Therapy, 2391 South Chancery Street; Barr’s Furniture, 643 Beersheba Highway, at Dr. Netherton’s dental offices at 304 North Chancery Street, Bill Zechman’s State Farm Insurance agency, 219 North Chancery Street, and Sullivan’s Hometown Pharmacy at Northgate Center.
“Rotary International is the largest civic club in the world, with more than 1.3 million members offering their time, talents and material resources to help people and improve their lives and futures,” said Lescarini. “There is no significant part of the world where we are not active and volunteering in some way. Very often we’re working on humanitarian and development projects in foreign countries. But because of the catastrophe in Sevier County, we have mobilized to serve urgent personal and economic needs much closer to home.”
The Rotary leaders emphasized the material needs will be ongoing as the tourism industry in the Smoky Mountains struggles to recover.