1st round of Dolly Parton’s ‘My People Fund’ distributed

(Courtesy: WATE)
(Courtesy: WATE)

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (WATE) – Families who lost everything in the Gatlinburg and Sevier County fires began receiving checks Thursday from Dolly Parton’s My People Fund.

Eligible families can receive $1,000 per month for up to six months. Whomever lost their primary residence in the wildfires, whether they own or rent, are eligible.

Applicants are urged to pre-apply online. County officials are using the U.S. Geological Survey of the damage along with cross-references of official documents.

Starting Thursday, those with last names beginning with the letters A through F were able to report to the CARE MORE Assistance Center inside the LeConte Event Center in Pigeon Forge. Those with last names beginning with G through L can report on Friday, M through R on Monday and S through Z on Tuesday.

Those receiving checks say they are very grateful for the help.

“I love this check, I mean it’s going to help me out a lot with clothes and everything else which I’ve already done some stuff but yeah, this is a huge help,” said Stephen Frank of Gatlinburg.” Thank you Dolly Parton, this has been amazing.”

The money they are receiving will go towards basic needs for most of them.

“My place was a total loss so it’s kind of one of those questions where do you start getting new stuff,” said Kevin Coughlin of Gatlinburg. “I got a mattress yesterday and that kind of thing, but it’s like essentials, and then I think after that it will go towards more specific stuff.”

Frank says the entire process was simple.

“The process was really easy. I had my driver’s license with my address on it so that was really fortunate. For me it was really easy, nothing to it at all.”

The Dollywood Foundation encourages only the heads of households report on the day that correlates with their last name and to bring photo ID. More than 900 families have applied so far with more expected.

Officials say the funds will not run out. Parton raised nearly $9 million for the My People Fund during a three-hour telethon Tuesday night. Officials expect that number to grow as the telethon is repeated over the next several days.