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New Mountain Tough leader passionate about helping

New Executive Director of Mountain Tough Recovery Team Barbara Joines has used her connections with family and friends to help fuel her passion for rebuilding Gatlinburg.

A fresh face hopes to give the Gatlinburg rebuilding efforts a lift a year after the wildfires.

Barbara Joines has only been on the job as executive director of the Mountain Tough Recovery Team for a month now, but she has a lifetime of relationships in Gatlinburg.

She said that's helping her as Mountain Tough continues to help families find new homes after last year's fires.

But her lack of familiarity with the job hasn't discouraged her.

"At this point in time in my life personally, it is my opportunity to give back to a community that has been so good to me," Joines said.

Barbara Joines, the new executive director of the Mountain Tough Recovery Team.

Joines was named as the organization's new executive director after the previous executive director stepped down in July with no explanation.

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Joines now oversees an organization that has helped 450 clients in the past year, with about half of those cases already closed.

The Appalachian Service Project has partnered with them to build houses around Sevier County.

"I would describe our process as working within the speed of accuracy," Joines said.

The emblem on Mountain Tough's Gatlinburg office.

Joines said recovery can't come fast enough.

"Our work is about assessing the needs of these families and bringing resolution to their needs," Joines said. "And helping them restore the quality of life that they had living in the Gatlinburg and Sevier County areas."

She's passionate because these are her neighbors.

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"I have friends and we have co-workers, and employees that worked for me that lost their homes," Joines said.

She knows challenges lie ahead, but she said she's ready.

"Our first phase was case management on an individualized basis, and we have moved into site cleaning and debris clean up," Joines said. "And we're also now entering the phase where we are assisting and coordinating with home rebuilds."

Appalachian Service Project has set a goal to rebuild 25 homes.

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They've finished four, and six more are on the way.

"So we are on course to continue on with the distribution of funds, managing the cases as they come in, and then starting into the site cleanup, debris removal and the phase of the rebuilds and coordination," Joines said.

Joines said she's grateful to all the partners who have supported the Gatlinburg rebuild.

It means a lot to her because she's so connected with the community.