Learn more about the success of Dolly Parton's relief efforts after 2016's Great Smoky Mountains wildfires.
What can't Dolly Parton do? In addition to being a singer, songwriter, and author, The Smoky Mountain Songbird is also a prolific philanthropist—especially when it comes to giving back to her home state of Tennessee.
Last year, after the horrific Great Smoky Mountains wildfires ravaged the greater Gatlinburg area in November and December, Parton swept in to provide much-needed financial aid through a telethon entitled "Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund," which raised around $9 million. Through the Dollywood Foundation’s My People Fund, money was distributed to residents via checks over the course of six months, which they could then use to support their personal recovery efforts.
Now, initial findings from a new report show that the money had a resoundingly positive impact in helping the community bounce back from the devastation of the wildfires. As USA Today reports, Stacia West, a professor in the University of Tennessee’s College of Social Work, worked with a small team to survey those who received money from Parton's fund to see how it impacted their lives. While a complete report is slated to be released in February, the researchers have so far found that recipients were grateful for the open-ended gift of a check, as opposed to charitable deliveries or monetary offerings with specific limitations.
Sadly, it has not been an easy path for those affected by the natural disaster. The report found that fund recipients' prior to the fires were spending an estimated 38% of their income on housing, with it skyrocketing to 64% after; many who participated in the survey did not have any emergency savings. The generous offerings from Parton's efforts proved pivotal for helping these Volunteer State locals get back on their feet.
WATCH: Dolly Parton Gives Out Checks To Almost 900 Victims Of The Tennessee Wildfires
“The research affirms what we experienced over the six months of distribution,” said David Dotson, president of the Dollywood Foundation. “First and foremost, providing direct monetary assistance allows the recipients to make their own choice about what they need to assist in their recovery.”
To learn more and see how you can help, visit MountainTough.org, an organization which Parton allotted $3 million of her fundraising pool to after distributing the checks to residents. Let's also give the Leading Lady of Country a serious round of applause, ladies and gents.