Boyd’s Bear distribution center closes; Sevier County wildfire help continues

(Courtesy: WATE)

PIGEON FORGE (WATE) – Boyd’s Bear Distribution Center in Pigeon Forge has been able to provide a safe place for wildfire victims. After more than two months of service, the Rotary-run center is closing up shop.

“We’ve been feeding and clothing about 3,000 people a day during the first 10 days,” said Manager Roy Helton. “After that 1,000 people a day for another 30 days and then ended up 650 people a day, when you help that many people you run out of inventory after awhile.”

During the donation center’s service, it had more than 500 volunteers on its busiest day.

“We look at the situations that happened, for instance in Katrina and Sandy, other places, I was warned in advance by people that had run those distribution centers that volunteer count would drop off by 50 percent on about the 15th day,” said Helton. “Well, ours did drop off by 50 percent on the 42nd day.”

Rotary has been able to give the remaining donations away to local charities.

“This was given by people all over the country for the people of Sevier County for the burn victims that had experienced the burn outs in Gatlinburg and Wears Valley and Cobbly Nob and those areas, and it was to stay here and we’ve endeavored to do that and we’ve done a very good job.”

Everything should be completely cleared out by Saturday night.

Rotary’s dedication to wildfire victims does not end with the closing of Boyd’s Bear. Rotary, along with other city and county organizations, is forming a committee known as Mountain Strong Long Range Disaster Relief Committee. The new committee is dedicated to continuing to help those who were displaced by the fires but also to devise a plan in case this ever happens again.

Rotary and other local organizations were some of the first to help after the wildfires and rotary members say they want to make the response even quicker in the future. The organization’s main focus right now is to help people whose homes were uninsured.

“While they may have qualified for FEMA, the maximum $33,000 will not build them a house,” said Jerry Wear with Rotary. “So, our purpose will be if they own their property, own their land, we will build a house on that property, either two or three bedroom home so that everyone will have a home.”

Wear says they hope to have the mountain strong committee completely up and running in the next few months.