GATLINBURG - UPDATE (12/18/2016): More than 2,000 volunteers are still needed to meet critical demands to help assist in wildfire recovery efforts in Sevier County.
Volunteer East Tennessee is leading the efforts to coordinate volunteers for long-term recovery. The non-profit has set up a Volunteer Reception Center in Sevierville. It's serving as the check-in point for all volunteers wanting to donate their time.
The center is located at 1304 Parkway, Sevierville, TN, 37862 (building that says "Theater" on the front).
Holiday volunteer shifts are available. The organization is hoping to meet demands with helping homeowners clean-up, as well as getting folks to help with warehouse operations to supply basic needs to those affected by the fires.
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Volunteers should bring a photo ID to check in at the Volunteer Reception Center. From there they will be placed at a local volunteer site.
It's also asking folks to wear comfortable, warm clothes that they don't mind getting dirty, as well as closed-toe shoes or sturdy boots. People should also bring water and snacks.
Volunteers are asked to avoid burnout by working four to eight hours at a time.
The organization said it's important to check in at the reception center.
"We have to be able to track where volunteers are going, how many hours they’re out, especially for FEMA dollars," Melanie Vincent with Volunteer East Tennessee said.
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National non-profit, All Hands, is leading cleanup teams coordinated by the Volunteer Reception Center.
"Helping get their property clean, sifting through the ashes, and helping them find their valuables, and chain saw work is what we specialize in," said Sherry Buresh, Director of U.S. International Response.
"We know in the ashes and everything there’s a lot of toxins that they [volunteers] don’t need to be in. We don’t want people to get sick and further damage their health by trying to help others."
Buresch added that by registering through the Volunteer Reception Center and being pared with one of the organizations that are experienced in doing clean up work will help to keep everyone safe.
If you are a homeowner and know you will need help cleaning up and sifting through the debris call the hotline: 865-590-9872.