Dolly Parton Surprises Sevier County Families With Final My People Fund Check

Six months after the devastating fires that took away homes and lives in Sevier County, Tennessee, hundreds of displaced families earned a welcome surprise from Dolly Parton’s My People Fund.

In December, Dolly Parton hosted the Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund telethon, raising over $9 million for wildfire victims. From that, she introduced the My People Fund, where families affected could register to receive $1,000 a month for six months to help get them back on their feet. On Thursday (5/4), final checks were distributed with a surprise of $5,000 instead of the monthly $1,000 they’d been receiving.

“You come here expecting a $1,000 check and you get a $5,000 dollar check,” resident Steve Johnson told WATE in Knoxville. “By her doing this, it really shows a lot.”

“The biggest loss that we had was our personal property stuff so it helps us be in a better situation to replenish furniture and some of the things we weren’t going to be able to replenish for a while,” agreed Brett Gaff.

Dolly Parton and Sevier County Residents; Photo via Webster PR

Dolly Parton and Sevier County Residents; Photo via Webster PR

Recipients were even more surprised to show up and find Parton on hand to help distribute the final checks.

“Over the last five months, we’ve given nearly 900 families $5,000 to help them recover,” Parton said in a press release. “Yesterday, we had our last distribution and I went over to The LeConte Center to say thanks to all the volunteers and to help give out a few checks myself. We matched what they’ve received already with another $5,000 check. I know $10,000 can’t solve everything, but I do hope the money will help them to dream again.”

In addition to Parton’s surprise, the legendary singer revealed the creation of the Mountain Tough organization, which will continue to support fire victims throughout the next three years. The “9 to 5″ singer pledged $3 million to the fund that will help individuals and families impacted by the fires.

“We’re still receiving money, so we aren’t finished yet,” said Parton in a press release. “Recovery will take some time, so a new organization—called Mountain Tough—has been created to help our people get back on their feet for the next three years. We’re giving at least $3 million to help this new organization begin the next chapter of our journey.”

“Mountain Tough will help pick up where the My People Fund left off,” Dotson added. “They will be staffed with case managers who will work to identify the immediate needs of residents and our funds will be used to address those needs. For example, it may help with transportation so someone can continue to be employed, or it may help with medicine for conditions caused by the fire. The case managers will coordinate with county agencies to ensure needed assistance is not duplicated and achieves its maximum impact.”

For more information on how to donate or volunteer for Mountain Tough, visit

Tags: Dolly Parton