Dolly Parton’s Pigeon Forge resort may have been spared from the devastating wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountain region, but the singer is pledging to help hundreds of local families in need by setting up a relief fund for victims.
“I've always believed that charity begins at home," Parton said in a video statement released Wednesday night.
The My People Fund, a program initiated through The Dollywood Company and The Dollywood Foundation, will provide $1,000 each month to Sevier County families who lost their homes.
In the video, Parton explained that her companies -- which include the Dollywood theme park, DreamMore Resort, and dinner theater attractions like Dixie Stampede and Lumberjack -- all "want to provide a hand up to all those families that have lost everything in the fires and to recover."
Said the singer, “I know it has been a trying time for my people and this assistance will help get them back on their feet.”
Those who wish to contribute to the fund can visit dollywoodfoundation.org. The Dollywood Company says more information about the program will be released Friday, Dec. 2.
Seven people have been confirmed dead as of Wednesday. Dollywood, located in the resort town of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., did not suffer any damage, a spokesman said, but flames were spotted on the edge of the property forcing a full park evacuation and closure Monday.
More than 14,000 people were evacuated from Gatlinburg on Monday night, and Fire Chief Greg Miller said the homes of several firefighters are among the estimated 300-plus buildings in the city that have been destroyed.
According to the National Park Service, the Great Smoky Mountain park sees more than 10 million visitors annually.