As we enter the spring season here in the Smokies, we are proving that we are mountain strong each day, keeping one foot in front of another! You often don’t know what you are made of until you face a life threatening challenge. You also often don’t appreciate what your neighbor really means to you until need them.
My husband, Mike, wrote some of our family and friends right after the fires last year that swept across Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains.
What do you say to someone who has lost their home and stands before you in clothes that are not their own? I’m sorry does not seem adequate. “Here is some money”? Yeah, great, but you cannot give them back the photos and keepsakes that they’ve lost. Overwhelming. But the response from the community was overwhelming as well. Many opened their homes to those who had lost everything. Clothes and food donations poured in and the organizations received so much in such a short amount of time that they had to ask folks to slow down the giving and called for volunteers to load and transport all the items. What an incredible place to live in!
I am overwhelmed by the wonderful spirit of our area as I am sitting in a little Chinese restaurant in Sevierville. And I am grateful. Grateful to have a home here. Grateful for the sweet people who live here. Grateful for the people who risked their lives so others might live. For the firemen, the policemen, the paramedics, the EMS workers, the medical community and the churches and other organizations who opened their hearts, their doors and their wallets. And for the thousands who helped.
Tonight I am grateful for everything. Grateful to be alive, grateful to have my family, grateful to be in love with my wife, grateful for my relatives both near and far. Grateful to be healthy, grateful to be walking and grateful to feel this gratitude in my heart. Tonight I am not worried about going shopping for Christmas gifts, the thread on my tires or that I need to change the oil in my tractor. Tonight nothing can bother me. The waitress forgets about me but I don’t care I’ll still give her the same tip. A big fellow blocks the isle to the food but I don’t care, I am grateful for him, too. Glad that he is alive, glad that he has food to eat. Oh how incredibly rich we are! Rich in the privilege to live in this wonderful country, with neighbors who care about you and who lend a hand whenever there’s a need.”
So just a check-in and a great, great thanks to all of you who have come to visit us and support our recovery! You will be pleased to know that in those efforts, $4.1 million was donated to those in need, 40,000 volunteers came to our aid, and 127,000 documented hours of help was logged.
The recovery effort isn’t the only area we are seeing construction and development taking place. You will be excited to know that this year we have great plans to continue to grow – Cal Ripken Sports Complex was a huge success in its first year of operation with 650 baseball teams visiting from 25 states including of course Canada. The new 2017 Season opened in March and we are ready for a fantastic second year. Our community is also in the process of creating a Mountain Mile & Town Shop center filled with shopping, restaurants, and entertainment opening in the same area of Pigeon Forge. This complex will be on 174 acres. Also this year, a 30,000 square foot Country Cascades Waterpark, part of a complex that will be called the “The Summit,” has been launched. And Dollywood has added three new rides: DropLine, Whistler Punk Chaser, and within Splash Country, “Tail Spinner.” We have a new Wyile Cider Bar, a Smith Creek Moonshine and the Casual Pint.
All this, of course, makes investing in this area solid. It also makes buying an investment cabin that you can rent out lucrative, and it makes this place a great place to live! We are here to make all that possible!