Best Way to Help Tennessee Fire Victims

The best way to help Tennessee fire victims is by sending money. Knowing how to donate however is key to making charity count. Sending water, blankets and food may seem like a good idea, but money is far better because it can be used to buy whatever the fire victims need. Money also doesn’t sit around in piles causing storage issues. The fires that hit Tennessee in November of 2016 devastated the Gatlinburg area. The fires caused seven deaths, gutted over 700 homes and businesses and razed more than 15,000 acres. While those statistics are sobering, they don’t give a full idea of the thousands who have been displaced, their homes damaged, living day to day in shelters and depending on the charity of others to survive.

The U.S. is by far the most charitable nation on Earth. The problem in most cases is the “how.” Right now, millions are looking for ways to help Tennessee fire victims, but their path isn’t always clear. Worse, scams tend to swarm around any disaster effort, making off with well-intended donations. The information in this post should give any kind soul a good start to do their part to ease the suffering.

Tennessee Fire Donations: National

Money is by far the best way to donate after any disaster, and the Tennessee fire is no exception. That’s because money is easily convertible into whatever items disaster victims need in the moment. Stories abound of shelters trying to figure out what to do with excess truckloads of bottled water, clothes or food. Often the cleanup effort for the donated goods gets in the way of the work needed to rebuild after the disaster itself.

Below is a list of organizations currently collecting money donations to help families victimized by the Tennessee fires. Options includes the Red Cross, United Way and local shelters. When donating, it’s possible to specify a local chapter of the United Way or Red Cross. Just see the instructions in the table below. Looking for more local donation options? See the next section of this article.

Large Tennessee Wildfire Charities   
CharityProsConsMethods
Red CrossProvides long term help to Tennessee fire victims.Some say the money gets eaten up by administrative costs.Visit redcross.org, then choose "change local chapter" from the drop down menu at the top. Enter Gatlinburg's zip code "37738" to donate to the American Red Cross Tennessee Region fund.
Red Cross TextProvides easy, long term help to Tennessee fire victims.Some say the money gets eaten up by administrative costs.Text "redcross" to 90999 to make an automatic $10 donation to the Red Cross general disaster relief fund, added to your next phone bill.
United WayProvides long term help to Tennessee fire victims.Some say the money gets eaten up by administrative costs.Visit United Way online, then choose "in my community" and enter 37738 in the "zip code" box to donate directly to United Way of Servier County, Tennessee.
Local SheltersProvides both short term and long term help for fire victims. Helps them get re-settled in their homes and helps with cleanup and repair.Small, shelters, harder for givers to know if their money is being put to the best possible use.See section below for local donation options.
GoFundMe FundraisersMore of the donated money goes straight to the fire victims.Uneven. A few fire victims get a lot of money while many others get none. Some scams have popped up with fake victims to rip off the generous and gullible. Before donating to a crowdfunding charity page, make sure you know the victim personally.Donate to the GoFundMe pages of personal friends or relatives only.

Also see: Best Way to Help West Virginia Flood Victims

Tennessee Fire Local Donations

Many people would rather see their money go to a local shelter or charity than a big national organization. The reasoning is that money given to a huge institution is more likely to get eaten up by administrative costs. While this debate is far from settled, there’s certainly no harm in giving to local charities in the wake of the Tennessee fire. Several excellent options exist for those who want to donate locally. Check out the table below to donating for long term housing, matched donations and donating to help shelter pets. There’s even a $10 automatic text message donation.

Local Tennessee Wildfire CharitiesHow it HelpsHow to Donate
Smoky Mountain Area Rescue MinistriesDonations of money made online to SMARM help families get set up with short-term and long term housing.Donate Online Here
Pigeon Forge Baptist ChurchOnline cash donations to the Pigeon Forge Baptist Church help victims with money for short term needs in the immediate aftermath of the fires.Donate Online Here
First Tennessee FoundationFirst Tennessee Foundation will match Red Cross donations made via any First Tennessee financial in Tennessee, up to $50,000 total.Donate Online Here
Dollywood FoundationDonate to The Dollywood Foundation to support $1,000 a month in aid to families who lost homes to the fires for six months.Donate Online Here
Community Foundation of Middle TennesseeThis community foundation has set up a donation fund for Tennessee fire victims.Donate Online Here
City of Pigeon Forge Fire Relief FundDonate to affected families in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg and Sevier County.To donate, mail a check to Citizens National Bank 200 Forks of the River Pkwy, Sevierville, TN 37862
Gatlinburg Relief FundMoney will help with immediate and long term support of fire victims in Tennessee.Mail donations to: Gatlinburg Relief Fund, SmartBank, P.O. Box 1910, Pigeon Forge, TN 37868
Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism AssociationTennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association are accepting donations to assist victims. Contact Jessica Cardwell at [email protected] or Greg Adkins at [email protected] You can also call 615-385-9970. Checks can be mailed to theMail checks to Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association, 475 Craighead St., Nashville, TN 37204.
Remote Area MedicalAccepting Tennessee fire donations via their secure website.Donate Online Here
Tennessee Valley Coalition for the HomelessDonate to this nonprofit working with Smoky Mountain Area Rescue Ministries to provide long term help to families after the fires are out.Donate Online Here
Friends of the SmokiesFriends fo the Smokies is a nonprofit assisting the National Park Service in Tennessee. Donations will help restore sections of the park damaged by the fire.To donate, call call 865-932-4794 or 828-452-0720.
Holston Conference of the United Methodist ChurchMonetary donations made through this website will help families recovering from the Tennessee wildfires.Donate Online Here
Humane Society of the Tennessee ValleyPets in animal shelters are often sorely affected by disasters. To donate to animals affected by the fires, click the link to the right.Donate Online Here
Red Cross Office, Maryville TennesseeLocal Red Cross office, more of the donated money may get to fire victims.Send check to Red Cross Office, 1741 Triangle Park Drive, Maryville TN 37801
Donate by Text MessageText "redcross" to 90999 to make an automatic $10 donation to the Red Cross general disaster relief fund.Text redcross to 90999.

Also see: Firefighter Salary is Higher than it Looks

Why Give Money to the Red Cross

donate-money-tennessee-firesThe Red Cross gets called out for red tape and criticized for mismanagement. It has al accused of using donations to cover administrative costs. There’s a reason all these criticisms exist, but that doesn’t mean money donated to the Red Cross to help Tennessee fire victims is a bad idea. In fact the opposite is true. Any big organization will have its share of corruption and mismanagement. That doesn’t alter the fact that the Red Cross continues to help millions afflicted by countless disasters worldwide. According to former Red Cross volunteer Erin Board, money given to the Red Cross is a great way to help disaster victims.

“The Red Cross is well equipped to assist during and after disasters on a scale that local shelters and churches can’t. You probably aren’t funding the actual bottle of water they hand out because that water was bought with money donated during the previous disaster. While it’s true that some of their interventions have failed, the work they do is still ridiculously helpful.”

Donate to the Red Cross by visiting their donation page here. To request that the donated money gets used to help the Tennessee fire recovery efforts, choose the “change local chapter” option at the top of the page. Any Tennessee zip code will work, but donators can enter Gatlinburg’s zip code of 37738 to give to the American Red Cross Tennessee Region Fund.

To give to the United Way chapter in Sevierville, visit their main donation page here. Choose the option for “in my community” and enter the 37738 Gatlinburg zip code in the “zip code” box.

Don’t Send “Stuff” to Help Tennessee Fire Victims

Why is it a good idea to send money instead of clothing, water, food and other items to help the victims of the Tennessee fires? While donating items is a popular choice, in most cases it’s a bit too popular. Small community shelters and churches are often run by a handful of local volunteers. During a disaster, those volunteers are easily overwhelmed with work just trying to keep up with the needy in their areas. Combine that problem with millions upon millions of well-meaning people on the other end of a disaster-created media frenzy, and mayhem can ensue. Small groups of rescue workers can get almost literally buried by truckloads of perishable foods, bottled water and clothing. Sorting clothes and tossing out rotten food can quickly become a full time occupation.

A much, much better option is sending money, because that way there’s no giant surplus of any one item. Instead, the aid goes directly to providing what’s needed.

Beware “GoFundMe” Scams

A GoFundMe page that accepts donations for the Tennessee fires. There's no good way of telling a legit page from a scam.

Screenshot of a GoFundMe page that accepts donations for the Tennessee fires. There’s no good way of telling a legit page from a scam.

What about GoFundMe pages for Tennessee disaster relief? A GoFundMe page can seem like a great way to help a family rebuild after a fire or other calamity. Someone who donates to a page can often feel that 100% of their money is actually being used to help those in need. However, the unscrupulous know about GoFundMe pages also. The Tennessee Secretary of State has warned would-be philanthropists about fake pages purporting to give money to rebuild a house or help a destitute family.

The best way to give money through a GoFundMe site is to make sure you know the page’s beneficiary personally. The State of Tennessee has also set up a special Charitable Solicitations Website that lets users look up a charity by name. If the charity isn’t registered, that’s a good sign to steer clear of it.