Neighbors in the Foothills draws 200, raises $13,000

More than $13,000 was raised at the third annual Neighbors in the Foothills fundraiser for Friends of the Smokies on Oct. 25 at RT Lodge.

“It was terrific,” said Friends of the Smokies executive director Jim Hart.

Friends of the Smokies supports programs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and also helps with volunteers who assist in the Park. “Neighbors” events are held in all the counties that surround the park at different times during the year.

The events are called Neighbors in Foothills on Tennessee side. On the North Carolina side, they have Spring for the Smokies in the spring and Fall for the Smokies in the fall.

“The one in Blount County is the largest and best attended of all the county receptions we have,” said Hart. “We’ve averaged between 150 and 200 guests at each one over three years. They’re very supportive and interested in the Park.

“There are a whole set of circumstances that reflect how well people in Blount County regard the Park,” he said.

The executive director praised the staff at RT Lodge for organizing the reception. “We raised somewhere between $13,000 and $15,000 which is $75 a head. It has been in that range the last three years, which is good for a small reception where there’s no auction,” he said. “It’s just a get-together.”

Hart said Park Superintendent Dale Ditmanson spoke and Justice Gary Wade, a founding board member, had some remarks.

Hart also thanked Herb Handly, vice president of the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau. for supporting the event and Joe and Becky Swann for getting the reception started.

“Our host committee has just been terrific,” he said.

Hart said the down economy has affected fundraising but not to a great extent. “It hasn’t been awful, but we’ve been down some. There are people who might have given at a certain level for several years and reduced it, and some others have been new members, and we’ve had some who gave more,” he said. “We’re probably off a little on total revenue, but we still have new people joining the Friends of the Smokies.”

The executive director said people in Blount County have been supportive during the Park’s 75th anniversary celebration. “The Blount Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was the first major sponsor to sign up and make a commitment back in 2008. They set the example for all the communities surrounding the park,” he said.

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