Update on Dec. 2, 2016: The executive director of the American Red Cross of East Tennessee joined FOX 43 News This Morning on Friday to clarify where Sevier County wildfire donations go.
10News has received a number of questions, comments and concerns about how donations to the American Red Cross are used to assist those affected by the Sevier County fires.
"We had a mistake. We made a comment that was not correct, and I want to correct it now," said American Red Cross of East Tennessee executive director Michelle Hankes. "In-kind donations that have been brought in are not leaving Sevier County.
"They were a gift from people for the Sevier County people. That's where they're staying."
Hankes said the donations are going to Boyd's Bear County at 129 Cates Lane in Pigeon Forge.
"It's very, very important that the people of Sevier County know that these things are for them, and will stay for them," Hankes said.
WBIR joined with WVLT, WATE and the American Red Cross to raise $270,000 for Sevier County wildfire relief during Thursday's Smokies Strong telethon.
Original Story on Dec. 1, 2016: We have received many questions about how donations to the American Red Cross will be used to assist those affected by the Sevier County fires. Clark Parker with the American Red Cross answered some questions today, and explains how your donations are used.
"Ninety one cents out of every dollar goes directly to victims of disasters. For the most part that money will stay here in Tennessee. If you designate money like on the website that money will stay here in Tennessee. If you are doing a call in, a telethon, or if you are texting Red Cross to 90999 that goes to disaster services wherever the need is greatest."
Right now, the need is greatest in East Tennessee.
"We call ourselves one Red Cross. Right now the one that is taking the most resources is the wildfire here in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Sometimes the money will go to the next disaster but it is serving our communities and sometimes when the next disaster comes around here some of that money may come from the last disaster on the West Coast or on the Gulf Coast."
Some are concerned about rumors the Red Cross was turning people away from shelters.
"We currently have two shelters open in Sevier County. We consolidated the LeConte Shelter and the Pigeon Forge Community Center shelter. That is one shelter now at Pigeon Forge Community Center. The second shelter is at Rocky Top Sports World that's just up out of Gatlinburg maybe a half mile from where the barricades are."
The Red Cross is not taking supply donations at shelters.
"We still have room for people there. One of the questions we get is can we bring stuff to the shelters and we are quite frankly out of room right now. That's why you hear the word pause. What we are doing is asking people to just pause for a second and then there are going to be agencies that coordinate the donation of stuff. But we have plenty of room for people at each of those shelters right now."
Donated supplies will be used here as needed. Surplus may or may not stay in East Tennessee.
"It could stay here. It could go elsewhere. Things like diapers, we had enough diapers in the shelter I was in last night to put diapers on babies for the next six years. Those sorts of things are likely to go to the next disaster."
"When this disaster is over, if I can ever use the word that a disaster is over, if we have stuff leftover it could also go to the next disaster. If it is non-perishable it could be stored in Red Cross facilities like this one for the next need here. It depends on what it is, what the shelf life is, those sorts of things."
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