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Parks and Recreation Staffers Lend a Hand in the Smokies 
Parks and Recreation Staff Volunteer in the Smokies
(Left to right) Pamela Mitchell, Beth Field, Angie Davidson, Lori Sloan, Alexandra Gellis, and Ray Clifton headed to volunteer to help those in need after  fires in Gatlinburg and the Smokies.

The recent tragedy in Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park hit home for staff members of City Parks and Recreation Department. Just like thousands of their fellow Knoxvillians, they wanted to volunteer and help any way possible.

“I felt called to go,” said Pamela Mitchell, a center leader at Larry Cox Senior Center. “Especially because my family once had a fire in our own home and the American Red Cross, family and friends helped me, but I struggled to figure out how to help because of my work hours.”

That’s when Pamela received an e-mail from Angie Davidson, Recreation Programs Coordinator for Parks and Recreation, inviting recreation staff members to volunteer the next day. That next day, Thursday, Dec. 8, happened to be Mitchell’s birthday.

“I believe we are here to serve and I wanted to make sure I served, and it didn’t matter what day it was,” said Mitchell. “What was so touching was to see how many donations there were. It reminded me of a Super Wal-Mart. Never in my life have I seen so many clothes. People stepped up to the occasion and I was so excited about that. That was the best birthday EVER.”

Six City Parks and Recreation professionals helped sort the clothing donations for an afternoon on Thursday, Dec. 8.

“It doesn’t matter who we are, or what angle of life we come from, we’re all affected by the Smokies and have memories of visiting,” said Davidson, who organized the Parks and Recreation volunteer effort. “Plus, we’re a ‘Parks and Recreation’ Department, so it’s especially close to our heart.”

Davidson said there were several members of the volunteer team that had experienced house fires in their past and were especially sympathetic. Ray Clifton, who deals with ballfield maintenance for the Parks and Recreation Department, told of how his family home burned due to an electrical fire when he was a teenager.

The recreation crew were able to help in more ways than physically sorting the clothing items. Davidson said Alexandra Gellis, one of their team members and a worker at the City’s Knoxville Arts and Fine Crafts Center, is somewhat fluent in Spanish and was able to assist non-English speaking victims that were seeking clothing and household items.

Another team of twelve recreation staff members are slated to head up to volunteer again next week.

Want to contribute or find out the best ways to help the fire victims? Call 2-1-1. The 2-1-1 phone line is run by the City’s 311 Call Center under contract to the United Way, and staffers answering the line can help connect people in need with resources - or provide information on ways that donors can contribute to relief efforts.

Also, the Sevier County Economic Development Council, in conjunction with Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, has created a new website to coordinate all of the relief and resources. Visit www.mountaintough.org.
Posted by kgibi On 09 December, 2016 at 4:50 PM