PIGEON FORGE - Sevier County residents picking up their final distribution from Dolly Parton's My People Fund on Thursday received surprise checks for $5,000 instead of the $1,000 they expected.
Since December, the fund has given $1,000 checks to people who lost their homes in the November wildfires each month. About 875 families have been receiving assistance from the fund.
The plan was for families to receive $1,000 a month for six months.
The Dollywood Foundation has brought in $4 million to date, more than they expected, so it allowed them to make these final checks larger than planned. Each recipient received a check for $5,000 on Thursday.
For people like Charles and Jenny Forgey, who lost their home in the November wildfires, Thursday was just the latest step on their road to recovery.
“I don’t know how to explain it, it’s really touched me good. And I appreciate everything they’ve done for me,” Charles said.
Just as valuable to those handing out this help – are reactions like that.
"You really develop relationships with people," Dollywood Foundation President David Dotson said. "You see the same folks, share their stories, know what they’ve been thru so a bond has certainly been developed.”
Parton and the Dollywood Foundation announced the My People Fund just two days after the devastating fires swept through Sevier County. Officials say the fires damaged or destroyed a combined total of 2,545 buildings in Sevier County, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, including businesses, homes and public buildings.
And while this might be the last check, it's not the last step of rebuilding.
Still -- the Forgeys want to thank Dolly.
"I'm here to tell you, that little woman -- if I ever see her, I'll squeeze her," said Jenny Forgey. "That's all there is to it."
On Friday, the Dollywood Foundation will announce their plans for the rest of the money they've raised.
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