With Christmas just hours away, we thought it was time to reflect on the year and send our warm wishes. Traditionally, the year-in-review is more of a New Year’s thing, but guys, this one’s been a heck of a year.
2016 has been tumultuous, but it’s important to remember the good things along with the bad. It was a year of divisive politics, but also of the Olympics. Our own corner of this great country was ripped apart by devastating wildfires in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the small tourist town of Gatlinburg. Lives, homes, businesses and jobs were lost. It was the worst natural disaster in East Tennessee in generations.
But our community rose up to support the survivors, some of whom are without homes this Christmas. Organizations like The Red Cross helped to shelter and feed fire refugees, but that’s only one small part of the story: hundreds of individuals and small businesses across East Tennessee chipped in to provide water and Power Bars to firefighters. They rounded up and donated pajamas, food, toiletries and sundries to survivors.
The movement started small but, supported by our own Dolly Parton, it grew to hundreds of thousands of dollars in relief. It’s called Smokies Strong. You can still participate by buying t-shirts, and all the proceeds go to wildfire relief and rebuilding efforts.
We call Tennessee the Volunteer State, and most people think that means football. The nickname started in the War of 1812 or the Mexican-American War, depending on which historian you ask. Thousands of Tennesseans stepped up to defend the country. The tradition of Tennessee Volunteers shows the bravery and “get the job done” attitude of our state’s sons and daughters and today, the tradition of the Volunteer State still lives. The Smokies Strong movement proves it.
This time of year, we reflect on our bounty with gifts and generosity, the wonder in our children’s eyes and good food in our bellies. We also hope it’s a time of love, of peace, of goodwill toward men. Enjoy your families, rejoice in fellowship and eat one more piece of pie.
Merry Christmas, East Tennessee!