United Way of Sevier County closing its doors

United Way of Sevier County closing its doors

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By MONA NAIR
6 News Reporter

GATLINBURG (WATE) – The United Way of Sevier County is closing its doors. The decision comes because of a lack of donor support.

The organization doesn't have enough money to stay open past the end of the year.

Nineteen local organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, area shelters, and volunteer fire departments will take a major hit. It translates to jobs lost and services cut.

At Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center, the therapy program will be cut in half. They see some of the most physically and sexually abused children in the region.

"We had a three year old with BBs in his scalp because his step-dad used him as target practice. We had a three year old repeatedly raped by her grandfather," said Donna Koester, describing some of their cases.

She says they help children recover through counseling so the lack of funding from United Way will have a big impact.

"We're going to lose half our therapists. Half our therapy program will be defunct due to lack of funding," Koester said.

At the six stations operated by the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department in Knox, Blount, and Sevier counties, the money is used toward much needed maintenance and aging equipment.

"This truck was commissioned in 1984," said Deputy Chief John Linsenbigler, showing us one truck that was old and not in compliance with today's standards.

United Way of Sevier County board members say they were left with no choice.

"It was a really hard decision to come to. There were tears shed at the board meeting. We had sleepless nights," said Board Chair Stacie McCarter.

She says donor support was not enough to stay open past the end of the year. Staff with several of the agencies that are affected are still in shock.

"I didn't know it was as difficult for United Way as it has been. If the agencies didn't know, I'm sure the community did not," Koester said, about how the announcement was so unexpected.

United Way of Sevier County has enough money to fund their agencies between now and the end of the year. If nothing changes between now and December, the agencies United Way helps will be cut off from funding after that.

If you want to help United Way, go to the website.

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