The thousands displaced by fires in Tennessee just found a hero in Dolly Parton.

Residents of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which has been battered by deadly wildfires for days, are getting some much needed help from their most famous neighbor.

Dolly Parton. Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images.

In a video and written statement released this week on her foundation's website, award-winning singer and actor Dolly Parton announced the creation of a fund to help the region rebuild, even as the fires continue to rage.


"I have always believed that charity begins at home," the singer said. "That’s why I’ve asked my Dollywood Companies — including the Dollywood Theme Park, and DreamMore Resort; my dinner theater attractions including Dixie Stampede and Lumberjack Adventure; and my Dollywood Foundation to help me establish the 'My People Fund.'"

The fund aims to provide residents who lost their homes to the fire $1,000 every month for six months, to help them rebuild.

The fires have already claimed seven lives, injured dozens, and damaged hundreds of buildings since they began spreading on Monday.

A birdcage sits among debris burned by the Gatlinburg wildfires. Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images.

Severe drought conditions in the region helped the flames, which appear to have been human caused, sweep into downtown Gatlinburg quickly and without warning.

Several people remain missing, giving families with elderly or less mobile relatives special cause for concern. In some cases, they've already had to confront the worst.

According to a WKRN report, victims of the blazes have included both locals and tourists — many of whom come to the area to visit its ski resorts and Parton's Dollywood amusement park.

Fire officials have yet to determine when displaced residents — that number over 10,000 — will be able to return to their homes.

Meanwhile, many locals have expressed frustration that their plight has been ignored or downplayed by the national press — as Jason Howard, a writer with family ties to the area, expressed in an opinion piece published yesterday in the New York Times.

"For most folks like me, this calamity is less about the lost jobs than about the lost memories of a place of great beauty, in a part of the country that sorely needed it," Howard wrote.

Parton's pledge not only stands to make the rebuilding process bearable for families who lost everything, it brings some much-needed attention to the area's struggle.

Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images.

Much like her earlier advocacy for LGBT rights, the singer is hoping to leverage her star power to do some good for the people she knows and loves best, calling the region, "the same mountains where I grew up and where my people call home."

Parton plans to release more details on her plan to aid the displaced families soon, according to her statement.

The people of East Tennessee have been asking America to listen for days.

Now, at last, they have a powerful voice on their side.

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Davina Agudelo was born in Miami, Florida, but she grew up in Medellín, Colombia.

"I am so grateful for my upbringing in Colombia, surrounded by mountains and mango trees, and for my Colombian family," Agudelo says. "Colombia is the place where I learned what's truly essential in life." It's also where she found her passion for the arts.

While she was growing up, Colombia was going through a violent drug war, and Agudelo turned to literature, theater, singing, and creative writing as a refuge. "Journaling became a sacred practice, where I could leave on the page my dreams & longings as well as my joy and sadness," she says. "During those years, poetry came to me naturally. My grandfather was a poet and though I never met him, maybe there is a little bit of his love for poetry within me."

In 1998, when she left her home and everyone she loved and moved to California, the arts continued to be her solace and comfort. She got her bachelor's degree in theater arts before getting certified in journalism at UCLA. It was there she realized the need to create a media platform that highlighted the positive contributions of LatinX in the US.

"I know the power that storytelling and writing our own stories have and how creative writing can aid us in our own transformation."

In 2012, she started Alegría Magazine and it was a great success. Later, she refurbished a van into a mobile bookstore to celebrate Latin American and LatinX indie authors and poets, while also encouraging children's reading and writing in low-income communities across Southern California.

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via Pixabay

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