To help those in the equipment rental industry, their families and communities severely affected by the wildfires that ravaged Gatlinburg and parts of Pigeon Forge, Tenn., the American Rental Association (ARA) of Tennessee and the ARA Foundation have joined forces to donate $6,000 to the American Red Cross for relief efforts. This donation combines $3,000 from the ARA of Tennessee and a $3,000 match from the ARA Foundation through its Matching Funds Program.
“This disaster has been so devastating to witness,” said Terry Turner, CERP, who is ARA chairman of the board, ARA Foundation board trustee, and owner of All Occasions Party Rentals in Knoxville, which is 35 miles from Gatlinburg. “According to CNN, this disaster has claimed 14 lives, left 134 injured, damaged or destroyed more than 1,600 structures, and forced the evacuation of 14,000 people. It is great to see that the ARA of Tennessee was able to take advantage of the ARA Foundation’s Matching Funds Program. The recovery efforts in this area of my home state will take a long time, but this donation will go a long way to assist that effort.”
The path to this donation began November 28 when the wildfire spread from its starting point near Chimney Tops in the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee into Gatlinburg. Turner called Lance Gehring, president of ARA of Tennessee, to let him know about the ARA Foundation’s Matching Funds Program.
“When Terry called, I was not familiar with this program,” said Gehring, president of Dixie Rents in Memphis. “It means a lot to be in a position to help out this part of the state in this way. On behalf of the board, I immediately approved the $3,000 donation. This is such a good cause, and with the ARA Foundation’s match, our donation is doubled. It really shows that if you have a strong state association that can generate funds to be used in times of need like this, you have a renewed purpose.”
Andy Cooke, CERP, manager of Cooke Rentals in Cornelius, N.C., who serves as chair of the ARA Foundation board of trustees, added, “This is what the ARA Foundation is all about. Disaster assistance is a primary initiative of the ARA Foundation. Luckily, we haven’t heard of any rental operators impacted, but the communities they serve have been. By using the ARA Foundation’s program, we were able to combine our efforts and make a real difference in helping everyone in these communities begin to get back on their feet.”
This donation will have immediate impact, said Melissa Levan, major gifts officer for the American Red Cross of the Central and Southern Illinois region. “Donations such as this allow us to provide food, clothing and shelter to those affected. We already have supplied 23,400 meals and snacks and more than 2,100 overnight stays. We are very grateful for this donation because it will allow us to continue to take care of the needs of residents who have been affected. That is critical after a disaster strikes.”