Organizers Encourage 4-H Youth – or Anyone – to Send Gift Cards to UT Extension Sevier County


Wildfire Relief Campaign

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – It’s only a small, thin piece of plastic, but it could really help someone in need.

The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and the Tennessee State Headquarters of 4-H are announcing an effort to collect gift cards for people displaced and affected by the wildfires in Sevier County. Fires over the past two days have destroyed thousands of acres of forests, burned hundreds of buildings and businesses and claimed several lives.

“The wildfires in Sevier County have been devastating to many families Extension works with so often,” says Alan Bruhin, Director of the UT Extension office in Sevierville. “We have hundreds of people who have been displaced, many still not knowing the status of their homes and properties. We’re working to try to meet the needs of these people as best we can. Any help is really appreciated as so many Sevier County families work to rebuild their lives.”

Organizers say gift cards of any monetary value to nationally recognized retailers can be mailed to the UT Extension Office in Sevier County to Bruhin’s attention. 4-Hers, UTIA employees or anyone across the state are encouraged to help out as best they can. Affected families will be able to use these cards to buy supplies and necessities in the coming weeks of rebuilding.

Donated gift cards can be mailed to UT Extension, 752 Old Knoxville Highway, Sevierville, TN 37862. The phone number of the office is 865-453-3695.

An alternative and faster way to give is to go online to the 4-H Foundation website. By using this method the Foundation will also be able to issue tax deductible receipts for their gifts. Donors using this method will need to indicate their gift is for "Wildfire Relief" in the "Other Instructions" box in Step 3.

Tennessee 4-Hers statewide were involved in a similar campaign earlier this year, and that effort led to this idea. 4-H leaders say collecting gift cards is a convenient way for people to help others, and teach children the importance of service.

“We worked with 4-H members in several states to conduct a service project to benefit families affected by flooding in Louisiana,” says Justin Crowe with Tennessee 4-H. “In one day, we collected more than $1,000 in gift cards, and we hope to do the same here. We've also gotten calls and emails from 4-H staff across our nation who want to help us here in Tennessee. We know this project will be just as impactful and will benefit our friends and neighbors in Sevier County.”

Bruhin says in this unfortunate situation, 4-Hers may also be helping some of their own. “We already know of over 30 4-H members whose families have lost everything, and we’re sure there will be more that we discover,” Bruhin says. “Also one of our volunteer Master Gardeners lost their home, and I know of many more of our Extension clientele who have experienced losses and damages.”

Meantime students at UTIA’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources are also doing their part to help the people of Sevier County. CASNR is partnering with the UT Center for Leadership and Service to collect bottled water, snacks and toiletries which will be passed on to the American Red Cross.

“We’re thankful to have faculty, staff and students who are passionate about helping their community,” says Craig Pickett, Coordinator of Student Life and Diversity for CASNR. “This is one of the many ways our college has taken an active approach in helping those in our community who need it the most.”

Items can be dropped off on the UT Agriculture campus on the first floor of Morgan Hall, the lobby of the Brehm Animal Science building and the lobby of the Ellington Plant Sciences building.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. ag.tennessee.edu

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Contacts:

Charles Denney, 865-382-8058 (mobile), cmdenney@utk.edu

Justin Crowe, 865-964-1617 (mobile), jcrowe3@utk.edu

Alan Bruhin, 865-453-3695 (office), wbruhin1@utk.edu