Rotarians are taking a lead role in helping Gatlinburg

District governor gives local update

By CHRISTY ARMSTRONG  Banner Staff Writer
Posted 1/11/17

The Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club is among the many Rotary clubs which have been helping with relief efforts after the wildfires which swept through the Gatlinburg area last November.

Fred …

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Rotarians are taking a lead role in helping Gatlinburg

District governor gives local update

CELEBRATING a big milestone, Fred Heitman, Rotary district governor, right, honors the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club for becoming a “100 Percent Paul Harris Fellow Club.” Joining him, from left, are club Rotary International Foundation chairman Andy Anderson and Kevin Mendel, club president.
CELEBRATING a big milestone, Fred Heitman, Rotary district governor, right, honors the Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club for becoming a “100 Percent Paul Harris Fellow Club.” Joining him, from left, are club Rotary International Foundation chairman Andy Anderson and Kevin Mendel, club president.
Banner photo, CHRISTY ARMSTRONG
Posted

The Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club is among the many Rotary clubs which have been helping with relief efforts after the wildfires which swept through the Gatlinburg area last November.

Fred Heitman, district governor for Rotary District 6780, recently visited the club and shared how Rotarians have been helping families in Gatlinburg get back on their feet.

In the aftermath of the wildfires, the area’s Rotary clubs set up a large distribution center in the former Boyd’s Bear outlet store in Pigeon Forge. Heitman said this has allowed volunteers to help those who lost everything, thanks to many generous donors.

“I want you to stop and think for a moment that you have lost everything and all you have is what you have with at this very moment,” Heitman said. “Everything else is gone.” 

He went on to describe how families had lost so much that day-to-day tasks were made harder. While many families were provided with hotel rooms, he noted many lacked everything from extra clothes to equipment they could use to prepare food.

The distribution later became a place where wildfire victims could “shop” for what they needed for free. People donated not only items like canned food but also items like can openers and cutlery.

The Bradley Sunrise club is in the process of collecting supplies to assist with the ongoing relief efforts. In December, the club also donated $2,000 to the cause.

“We’re serving 2,000 people a day and more — because of you,” Heitman said.

While the Rotary organization has been spearheading some of the relief efforts, Heitman noted anyone can help with volunteer hours or donations.

Current items said to be in demand are toaster pastries, microwavable macaroni-and-cheese, canned meat, canned fruit, canned pasta meals, paper towels, over-the-counter medications, children’s multivitamins, children’s socks and underwear, bed sheets and pillows.

Heitman said the Rotary-run distribution center has received many donations, allowing volunteers to drastically shorten the list of in-demand items. For example, there was a large donation of mattresses for those settling into new homes. Now, those families just items like sheets to make their beds.

Heitman said the list of needed items changes regularly. However, he noted financial donations have perhaps proven to be the most valuable.

When people evacuated their homes, not everyone had time to pack. This means some left items like vital daily medications behind. Funds donated by the community are being used to assist wildfire victims with expenses like getting their prescriptions refilled.

Those interested in giving financially can do so online through the Oak Ridge Rotary Community Fund at https://portal.icheckgateway.com/RotaryCommunityFund.

Heitman thanked the local club for its support, noting its efforts are making a difference.

He added the local club’s efforts are helping people everywhere from Tennessee to Togo.

“You are doing so many things,” Heitman said. “You are working all over the world.” 

The Rotary district governor also helped the local club celebrate a special award. The Bradley Sunrise Rotary Club has just officially been named a “100 Percent Paul Harris Fellow Club.” 

In the Rotary International organization, a person can receive the honor of becoming a “Paul Harris Fellow” by donating $1,000 to the Rotary International Foundation. A person can also receive the fellowship when someone else donates in his or her honor.

When a Rotary club is awarded a “100 Percent Paul Harris Fellow Club” distinction in the event, every single member of a club has been named a “Paul Harris Fellow.”

Heitman said this accomplishment is “truly rare indeed.” 

“We have 65 clubs in the district. We have had a surge of clubs trying to do this in the last couple years. We’re still fewer than 10,” Heitman. “This is one of the best-giving districts in the world. We’re renowned for how we support the Rotary foundation, yet not every club is a ‘Paul Harris Club.’” 

There was another reason to celebrate at the Rotarians’ recent meeting. The club presented a $3,000 donation to Spirit Horse at Black Fox, a local therapeutic horseback riding program for children with special needs.

The club every year hosts a fundraising gala. Funds from that gala are then given away to local charitable causes throughout the year.

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