Donors ask why Gatlinburg donations not yet received by victims

April 13, 2017: People who bought t-shirts from the Nashville Shirt Company following the Sevier County wildfires are wondering if their money has made it to the wildfire victims.

NASHVILLE - When the Gatlinburg wildfires erupted last November, everyone wanted to do something to help.

Some customers who bought t-shirts from a Nashville company to help the fire victims are now wondering when their money will get to those who need it most.

"I heard about the shirt sales through both social media, and a customer of mine mentioned that the shirts were for sale and the profits were going to a Gatlinburg charity," said David Branson, who owns DBR Performance in Spring Hill.

Branson said he bought seven shirts from the Nashville Shirt Company. The business made t-shirts to support the fire victims.

"I bought shirts from all the employees, and they were $25 a piece, I believe,” Branson said.

But he and others who reached out to Nashville NBC-affiliate WSMV said they aren't sure where that money went.

According to the company's website, 100 percent of the sales will go to the Gatlinburg Chamber of Commerce Foundation, but the chamber told WSMV as of Wednesday, "the Convention and Visitors Bureau cannot confirm that a check was received from the Nashville Shirt Company in our office.”

"Hearing that that didn't happen, it makes me really disappointed. It makes me really suspicious why," Branson said.

Four months after the sales, WSMV wanted to find out when people could expect that money to be donated.

An address led to the store at the Arcade, but it was closed. After calling the Nashville Shirt Company owner Keegan Thomas, he sent this statement:

"We are working through the numbers to determine the exact amount to be donated once we sort through the items that were lost in the postal system and some overflow stock. We will be sending the donation in June and honoring our commitment as we did with our Noogastrong campaign."

People like Branson said they want to make sure the money wasn't given in vain.

"If the money never gets sent, I'm not sure. I've never crossed that bridge, so I don't know," he said. "But $175 is a lot of money to spend on shirts when you think a big portion of that is going to go help people."

Gatlinburg chamber administrators said they don't keep track of how much a specific organization or person donates. They said $1.6 million was raised so far for victims and businesses affected in the wildfires.

WBIR also partnered with The Bacon Company and the Knoxville News Sentinel to sell t-shirts to benefit the victims of the Sevier County fires. The Smokies Strong shirts raised $200,000 that went to the Red Cross's disaster relief efforts. The rest of the proceeds were split between the Dollywood Foundation's My People Fund and the Friends of the Smokies.

© 2017 WBIR.COM


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