Dolly Parton has urged fans to visit the Smoky Mountains region in her native Tennessee to help it recover from last year’s (16) devastating wildfires.
Writing on CNN.com, the Jolene singer issued a plea asking tourists to return to the Tennessee National Park, where many residents lost their businesses and homes in November’s blazes.
“People still ask me every day how they can help, ask is there is still anything we need,” she wrote. “That’s easy – come see for yourself. Bring your family and have the time of your lives. Take a hike in our beautiful mountains.”
Among the area’s attractions is her theme park Dollywood, which was evacuated after being threatened by the wildfires.
“Make memories at the great attractions here, eat some of our great cookin’ (sic). You’ll find it as hard to leave my mountains as I do, but I’ll tell you my secret – once you make the Smokies part of your life, the mountains will live in your heart forever,” she continued.
The country superstar launched her My People Fund charity initiative in December to help families left homeless in Sevier County, Tennessee, the area of the mountains the fires devastated.
After a charity drive spearheaded by a star-studded telethon raised $9.3 million (£7.2 million), Dolly handed out cheques for $1,000 (£810) a month to the hundreds of affected families, supplemented by a final payment of $5,000 (£4,000) this month (May17).
The remaining $3 million (£2.3 million) in the fund will be used to rebuild Smoky Mountains communities.
“I’m as proud of being part of this, helping my people, as anything I’ve ever done in my life,” she wrote of the rebuilding effort. “And our next step is to continue to look at what’s ahead for everyone and our long-term recovery here.”