UPDATE (12/03): Father Antony asks me to convey his appreciation to the Knights of Columbus and to all our parishioners and school parents who answered his call for help. I know he is also grateful to Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish, which has been exceptionally responsive from the first hours of the crisis. The diocese-wide special collection this weekend will allow Catholic Charities of East Tennessee to aid the recovery effort after residents are allowed to move back home by Wednesday. As for our parish, at this time we are only collecting gift cards and infant supplies to be delivered directly to Father Antony for immediate distribution. He will let us know if they need any other specific items between now and Wednesday.
UPDATE (12/02): The Knights of Columbus delivered a large shipment of relief supplies today. These supplies are being distributed at this moment to affected parishioners of Saint Mary Parish (Gatlinburg), and to their similarly affected neighbors and coworkers. At this time, Walmart and Food City cards are the primary needs. There is no need for bottled water at this time. Once Father Antony moves back into his rectory Wednesday, it is my understanding that Catholic Charities of East Tennessee will begin handling relief efforts on behalf of the diocese.
UPDATE (12/01): Specific needs: at this time, we are focusing on twenty to thirty families who are members of Saint Mary Parish in Gatlinburg. Due to the particular circumstances of a number of these families, they will not have ready access to recovery services over the coming days and weeks.
There are, of course, many other families in need besides members of Saint Mary’s, but these are the ones with which we have direct communication thanks to Father Antony.
Please note: more than anything else, these particular families need gift cards to Walmart and similar stores. They are staying in hotels, and so they do not need water or bedding items. Toiletry items, however, are greatly needed.
I have just spoken with Father Antony of Saint Mary’s in Gatlinburg. He is in direct contact with his parishioners, many of whom are blue-collar workers, living paycheck to paycheck, and who are now uncertain about their jobs. Due to the entry restrictions into Gatlinburg, these families, including plenty of young families with small children, are staying in motels until they can evaluate their homes and future prospects.
Our parish Knights of Columbus council is now collecting non-monetary relief items for these families. Microwavable and other foods that do not require stove-top preparation, as well as diapers and other basic supplies needed by young families, can be left at 329 Vermont Ave., 9am to 7pm daily, until further notice. The Knights will begin the process of delivering these items directly to Saint Mary Church in Gatlinburg, once travel restrictions are lifted.
The bishop has established a second collection this weekend for monetary response to the disaster.
We are aware that some relief agencies are reporting a surplus of donated items. Since we have direct communication with a large number of victims of the fires, we know that the needs described above are active and growing. Please help, and spread the word.