$15K grant will help wildfire-damaged school library

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A $15 thousand dollar gift will help Pi Beta Phil Elementary School in Gatlinburg revive its library.

The school building was threatened by smoke and flames during the November wildfires. While the building survived the fires, many books and other materials were smoke-damaged and had to be thrown out.

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation and American Association of School Librarians (AASL) operate the Beyond Words grant program, which provides funding to school libraries damaged in disasters.

"This donation will support the library's restoration, provide funds for additional library resources and help further students' lifelong love of reading," said Denine Torr, Dollar General's senior director of community initiatives. 

The school will use the money to replace books and other equipment.

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"I dont even know how you put something like that into words. It's phenomenal. It's going to mean everything. The children love to read," said principal Carey Woods.

Woods says Pi Beta Phi was founded on a love for reading, and they're thrilled to use this money and carry on that tradition.

The wildfires on November 28 drastically affected the small school, which has just over 500 students enrolled.

Two students were killed in the fires, along with their mother.  131 students lost their homes in the fires, along with seven teachers. 

The school was evacuated the day the fires got out of control and burned very close by. The wind and extreme heat shattered several windows in the building. The school was forced to hold classes in several satellite locations for several months.

The school was On Nov. 28, the Sevier County wildfires approached the school, stopping just feet away from the historic building. , sending a wave of smoke into the school that forced the staff to evacuate an estimated 500 students.