Savannah Sherril and her two-year-old daughter were some of the last people staying in the Red Cross Shelter at Rocky Top Sports World following the Sevier County wildfires at the end of November.
They lost their home in the fire, and had nowhere else to go.
"We're making due the best we can," Sherrill said in early December 2016.
Sherrill was counting on the $1,000 a month Dolly Parton's My People Fund promised to those who lost their home in the fires. She planned to use it to pay rent.
Now, three months later, she's found a home for her family. She says it's a nicer home than the one they had before the fire.
“I know we’re a lot better off than we were. I hate to say it, but we’re doing a lot better than we were," said Sherrill.
The $1,000 a month is a raise for this family.
“I have no worries because my rent's taken care of, and that’s really what I needed it for. My rent's taken care of, and I don’t have to worry about that," she said.
Sherrill isn't alone. Nearly 1,000 families are receiving checks from the My People Fund every month.
“I’ve never seen anything like the My People Fund, how it grew not only the rate it grew and the total amount of money, but I’ve never seen such emotional giving, in my entire life. With every donation, there was a story,” said David Dotson, president of the Dollywood Foundation.
The idea for the My People Fund was created on Tuesday, one day after the fire. On Wednesday morning, Dotson woke up to $1 million in donations.
“When you see that kind of spirit and that kind of generosity, it not only makes you feel good, but also makes you feel very responsible with the money that people are entrusting to us,” said Dotson.
Dolly and the Dollywood Foundation hosted a telethon to raise money for the fund.
“We've had over 80,000 individual transactions for it and most of them are the $5, $10, $20 variety. So, when you look at the numbers, the whole My People Fund success is really because of the $5, $10, $20 donations, not the $1 million donations,” said Dotson.
The fund promises $1,000 to every family for six months. Dotson says there is plenty in the fund to accommodate the promise, and there may be a surplus.
“We definitely have enough money to meet the obligation, and it's hard to say at this point if there’s a surplus. We just don’t know how many more families will come, but with what we have in hand, we have enough money to meet any unanticipated demand. Whatever money is left we’re going to make sure it gets into the hands of whoever lost their home,” said Dotson.
The money isn't only helping the Sherrill family get by. It's helping her save for her dream.
"Of course, a house. That’s somebody like me’s dream. I have a little girl and want her to have her own room and stuff," said Sherrill.
Sherrill said she's thankful every day, both for God and Dolly Parton.
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