Dolly Parton’s telethon makes Gatlinburg business employees emotional during airtime

Local News
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Technicians set up a microphone for Hank Williams Jr. during a taping for Dolly Parton’s Smoky Mountain Rise Telethon Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. Parton has lined up an all-star list of performers for a three-hour telethon to raise money for thousands of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed in Tennessee wildfires. […]

GATLINBURG (WATE)- Between Howard’s Steakhouse and the Best Italian Cafes in Gatlinburg, England Food Group has 28 employees whose homes are uninhabitable or destroyed. Even in the days and weeks following the wildfires, these employees and their coworkers are coming together to support each other like family.

“We’re together again and we’re helping each other. Absolutely the most wonderful thing I’ve ever witnessed, encountered, or gone through in my whole life…and I’m an old guy,” said Manager Jimbo Leal. He’s been with the company for more than forty years, he says he’s never seen generosity and support like this.

Employees rallied to provide clothing, essentials, and other things that might have been lost in the fires to their friends and colleagues. In the same week as the fire itself, Howard’s Steakhouse and Best Italian Cafés required cleaning–a job managers didn’t know if they would have support to accomplish so fast.

“[Employees were] homeless…coming down here just to clean up. Didn’t even care whether they were on the clock or not. To me that’s crazy, crazy good,” said Leal.

One employee who works at Best Italian Café, lost his home and is relying on the My People Fund to keep his family stable.

“It feels very hard…*looks away silence…we don’t have anywhere to live right now. It’s a big change in my life. We don’t have an apartment, we lost everything,” said Santos Herrera.

He says his job keeps him going, he’s grateful his family is safe and is now hoping they will find a permanent home soon.

Timing isn’t a problem according to Leal, who says these restaurants will keep people employed with a pay check, and help in any other ways necessary until everyone is back on their feet.

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