A group of Merrill High School students are doing their part to help a Tennessee town ravaged by a deadly wildfire.
The Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at Merrill High School held a blanket and towel drive at the school this week that netted 300 items for the residents of Gatlinburg, Tenn., who lost their homes to wildfire.
FCA members Dominic Zattera and his family lived in Townsend, Tenn., near Gatlinburg, before moving to Merrill in 2013. His mother, Dawn, volunt
eered to drive the donations to Tennessee for delivery.
Dawn Zattera explained that friends from the church they belonged to in Townsend have been affected by the fires.
“Church of the Cove is mission based, we feel it’s our mission to go back and help our friends who helped us when we needed help,” Dawn said.
“When we first moved there, the housing market was terrible. We weren’t doing well and the church came together to help us until we were back on our feet. They provided us meals, helped us find a home, we don’t know what we would have done without them. Now we are in a better place in our lives and it’s our turn to give back.”
The wilfire started Nov. 23 in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Aided by high winds, the fire destroyed more than 2,400 buildings and killed at least 14 people. The fires consumed the communities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. Townsend, just to the west, was spared.
The Zatteras had lived just on the other side of a ridge from the affected wildfire area. They still own their home there, which is rented out.
“If the wind blew the other direction, our home there would be gone,” Dawn said. “We are very fortunate.”
As residents, business owners and property owners were being allowed back into Gatlinburg today (Thursday), Dawn was on her way to deliver the donations collected from Merrill High School students. The trip is nearly 1,000 miles from Merrill to eastern Tennessee.
Learning of the need in Gatlinburg, the FCA group decided to take action. They came up with a homeroom challenge; they would buy donuts for the homeroom that donated the most blankets and towels over the three-day drive.
The student-led FCA group meets every Thursday for devotions and gets together on some weekends for fun activities.