Despite losing all or much of what they own in last week’s fires, many people in Sevier County are still taking the time to help others in need.
At Johnny Rockets in downtown Gatlinburg, the building escaped any major damage, but marks of the fire can still be seen inside. There is soot coating every surface of the restaurant.
“Every inch of the restaurant needs to be cleaned,” said general manager Autumn Taylor.
The restaurant hasn’t been open for business since the fires came last Monday night, but that doesn’t mean food isn’t still flying out the door.
This week, they donated virtually every case of hamburger in the restaurant to feed hundreds of hungry first responders and utility crews.
“Opened up the restaurant and said ‘take everything you need to keep fed, keep strong and keep fighting for us,’” Taylor said.
Last week’s fires took 44 of the 100 cabins at Laurel Mountain Chalets. What the flames didn’t destroy, though, is the owners’ giving spirit.
“It’s a hard day, we’re going to make it through because we have a sense of hope,” Tim Goodwin said.
Even though the damage to their cabins is severe, they still set up a tent with tables of food along the road, hoping to feed anyone heading up Ski Mountain.
“We just wanted to offer a bright ray of hope and respite in a difficult time,” Goodwin said. “This is a small way we can just give someone a hug, let them process and talk to someone else, feed a hungry belly and mostly just have some community and fellowship with other people.”
Heather Shipley and her daughter Ariel stopped by the tent Monday to visit. Shipley said the stand is more than about offering people a bit to eat – it’s the spirit of Gatlinburg – helping others, even when you might need some help yourself.
“We all pull together. It’s sad to see all this, but we’ll make it through,” she said.