After wildfires ravaged her hometown area, Dolly Parton rose to the call for help. The country legend raised millions of dollars to aid the thousands who were affected by the fires. And she just pledged another $3 million in relief.
About five months ago, wildfires destroyed significant portions of Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn. in Sevier County. The devastation killed 14 people and displaced hundreds while also causing irreparable damage.
Parton created the My People Fund, pledging $1,000 per month for five months to every family that lost its primary residence in the fires. Then, she doubled the amount for a total of $10,000 to each family. Parton organized a celebrity telethon to help raise millions in relief efforts.
Now, Parton has announced the creation of the Mountain Tough organization. Dedicated to longterm relief, the organization provides ongoing support for families over the next three years. She promised to fund it with at least $3 million.
Mountain Tough begins June 1 with a focus on low-income families. Case managers identify those who most need support while the community rebuilds after the devastation.
"It makes me feel humble," Parton told USA Today. She says she's proud she can help. "But I don't put myself on any kind of pedestal for doing this," she adds. "Because it's the right thing to do. I'm a Smoky Mountain girl, and I've been blessed in my life to become a celebrity. And when you're in a position to help, you should help."
Parton also has her Dollywood resort nearby. The massive tourist attraction temporarily shut down during the fires. But, as Parton notes, much of the area is back on its feet. Now they're focusing on bringing tourism back to the area.
As for the cause of the fire, officials identified and arrested two teens. Their careless actions caused 14 deaths, 175 injuries and more than 2,400 destroyed homes. The fires caused more than $500 million in damage. Those teens could face life in prison.