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Helping Families in Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge

In the blink of an afternoon, day-to-day life in Gatlinburg changed: fires broke out in late November 2016 in Sevier county, affecting Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Ultimately the fires caused 14 deaths and 191 injuries serious enough to need treatment as well as claimed 17,904 acres of land. This vacation destination, home to almost 4,100, saw a $19 million loss in December tourism revenue over the previous year. Visitors are returning, but not to the same levels as before. Sales in the first quarter were down 36%, but the area is still hoping for a strong summer.

This loss in income has had a devastating effect on families that depended on a strong holiday season – many of whom were already living paycheck to paycheck.

At Mercury One, we knew we needed to take action – even the smallest of contributions can make all the difference in the world when tragedy strikes.

So, since November, about 50 students at Pi Beta Phi Elementary School in Gatlinburg, Tennessee have been taking home bags filled with food every weekend courtesy of Mercury One.

Our amazing disaster relief partner, Somebody Cares International, alerted Mercury One about the students’ need for weekend food bags soon after the fires struck. Mercury One provided funding for the supplies, which included granola bars, soup, fruit cups, peanut butter, Gatorade and other food, as just one of four post-fire projects. We worked with New Hope Church in Kodak to provide 50 bags filled with food every week. New Hope had a team of volunteers who come in weekly and put the bags together and deliver them to Pi Beta Phi.

Mercury One recently received a touching note from a woman whose children were receiving the bags from school. She wrote:

“Two of my three daughters are students at Pi Beta Phi in Gatlinburg TN. For months they have each been bringing home a bag of food and snacks every weekend. I had no idea who or where it came from. At first I was embarrassed, but I am a single mom of three, and we lost everything in the fires so that didn’t last long. I appreciated it very much. So did my daughters, because Gatorade and individual fruit cups are a luxury. It seems like such a small thing, but the impact it made on our lives was substantial. When I saw it on the front page of the paper I literally started crying, and immediately felt the need to reach out and express my VERY sincere appreciation.”

It is stories like these that remind us of the lasting impact of our humanitarian work. What may have seemed like a small project for us made a huge difference in the life of this family.

Donations totaling $31,265 in the days after the fires allowed Mercury One to act as quickly as possible to start helping the victims of this disaster recover.

Along with this food bag project immediately after the fires, Mercury One provided funding for respiratory masks to Team Rubicon to support their efforts and safety in helping to clear the burned areas. Based in Los Angeles, Team Rubicon is a nonprofit that specializes in deploying military veterans to disaster sites. Its Operation Blue Smoke brought 26 volunteers to the area, where they logged 3,888 hours conducting damage assessments, removing debris and providing chainsaw operations. The volunteers provided cost savings of $107,071 to the city of Gatlinburg.

Additional post-fire projects included sending blankets and bottled water to the area through Gleaning for the World and funding $10,000 in gift cards to be used for immediate needs via Somebody Cares International.

None of these projects would have been possible had it not been for Mercury One’s steadfast and generous donors who answered the call for donations. We are forever grateful for the support of the projects they allow us to work on and the people they allow us to cross paths with.

Donate

Support Mercury One and their initiatives to provide humanitarian aid and education and to restore the human spirit by clicking here​. Together, we can make a difference.

Mercury One is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Internal Revenue Code Section 170. No goods or services were provided by Mercury One in exchange for your donation. Mercury One, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Federal Tax ID #45-3929881. Your donation may be considered tax-deductible. Please consult with a tax attorney or an accountant for specific guidance.

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