Update 5 p.m., Dec. 7:
In-kind donations are no longer being accepted at the 149 Cates Lane, Pigeon Forge location. Instead, deliver to Smoky Mountain Jubilee Donation Center (across from Titanic), 2115 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN 37863. Hours: Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Financial donation options: (1) Give online at Holston.org/Wildfires (2) Write checks to "Holston Conference" with "Wildfire" on the memo line. Mail to: Holston Conference Wildfire Relief, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701.
ALCOA, Tenn. (Dec. 6, 2016) – Holston Conference leaders were grateful last night when the treasurer’s office announced the latest total of donations arriving for Sevier County wildfire relief: $31,485.
Checks and cash are arriving through the mail, online, and on foot in the Alcoa Conference Office, said the Rev. Michael Sluder, director of connectional ministries.
A $5,000 contribution arrived from the Alabama-West Florida Conference, where Holston native Bishop David Graves serves as resident bishop.
“We’re so thankful for it all and will continue to share how we can best serve our neighbors and the survivors,” Sluder said.
Financial donations may be made online at Holston.org/wildfires, or send checks to “Holston Conference” with “Wildfires” on the memo line. Mail to: Holston Conference, Wildfire Relief, P.O. Box 850, Alcoa, TN 37701.
The latest death toll is 14 from wildfires in Sevier County that began late on Nov. 28. About 1,700 structures have been damaged or destroyed, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.
Residents of Gatlinburg, where damage is heaviest, were expected to return to full-time occupancy on Wednesday, but the date has been postponed to Friday, Dec. 9, authorities said.
IMMEDIATE NEEDS AND BEYOND
Holston leaders are meeting some immediate needs while preparing for months of disaster relief and other mission work in Gatlinburg and the rest of Sevier County, Sluder said.
In addition to using existing storage at The Connexion in Sevierville, Holston staff are securing more pods to place on the grounds, providing storage for other relief agencies.
First United Methodist Church of Sevierville is preparing to serve as a host site for incoming missions teams.
First United Methodist Church of Pigeon Forge is preparing to serve as a clearinghouse for resources and labor.
Holston disaster-response teams are on standby and awaiting direction from emergency management, Sluder said.
The congregation at The Connexion, Ministerio del Espiritu Santo, is collecting furniture and locating housing for families left homeless by the fire. Other Holston congregations are also creating ministries as they feel led. State Street United Methodist Church in Bristol, Va., created ash shifters for Gatlinburg fire survivors.
PUBLIC NOTICES FROM UMC
United Methodist Communications is preparing advertisements to appear on local radio stations and newspapers Dec. 12-25, offering support and information on how the public may contribute to the Holston Conference disaster response effort.
The media plan will include about 125 spots per week on WJXB-FM 97.5, WCYB-FM 100.3; and WIVK-FM 107.7, as well as full-page color ads in the Sunday editions of Knoxville News-Sentinel and The Mountain Press, according to Royya James, senior manager.
On Saturday, about 25 pastors from Maryville District gathered at First United Methodist Church of Pigeon Forge. The purpose was to allow pastors to worship and de-brief prior to standing before their congregations on Sunday morning, according to the Rev. Charles Maynard, Maryville District superintendent.
Maynard shared his own family’s statue of Baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph. Maynard said his granddaughter believes the statue depicts Joseph as he speaks to his wife and child, “Be calm.”
“Your calm has been incredible,” Maynard told pastors at the gathering. “You have truly been a reminder to me of who is in charge in the midst of all this.”
On Sunday, the congregation from First United Methodist Church of Gatlinburg worshipped at Wedding Chapel in the Glades instead of its historic downtown location.
“The church building was spared damage from the fire but it is still smoky inside,” church member Rick Almond explained.
The fire came within a few feet of the church, scorching structures and foliage a few feet away, said church member Peggy Smith. “A temporary power pole that caught fire just down to the left of this area caught fire and fell, missing our beautiful stained-glass window by three feet.”
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.