Middletown business seeking supplies for Gatlinburg families

Middletown business seek supplies for Gatlinburg families. CONTRIBUTED

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Middletown business seek supplies for Gatlinburg families. CONTRIBUTED

Owner: ‘Let’s bring some of Ohio’s caring and sharing down here.’

A family with deep roots in Middletown that operates businesses here and in Tennessee is taking collections for families in need because of deadly wildfires in the Gatlinburg, Tenn., area.

The death toll climbed to 13, officials reported Friday.

Teri and Brien Owens, both 1984 Middletown High School graduates, now live in Knoxville, Tenn., and operate an Inst-I-Glass window repair and replacement franchise there. Meanwhile, Brien and son Larry “Butch” Parrella, of Louisville, Ky., operate the Middletown franchise, which opened in January.

“Ever since everything’s been on the news about Gatlinburg, so many of our friends and family have been offering their support through Facebook, and asking what they could do, and praying, and sharing some of their stories about why Gatlinburg was important to them,” Teri Owens said.

“I thought, ‘You know, we have so much of the support up there, let’s help bring it down here,’” she said. “We’ve already seen donations coming in, ever since we put it on Facebook (Wednesday).”

So many people in Southwest Ohio have been mentioning they were just down there, or spent their anniversaries there, or got married there, so, “I thought, ‘They want to give back too, just as much as most people down here in Tennessee do. So why don’t we just open a donation center up there, and Brien and I will just bring it down here and distribute it?’”

Inst-I-Glass, at 1955 Central Ave., will collect supplies until noon Dec. 9. Donors are asked to call 513-571-9473 to coordinate daytime drop-offs. A wide variety of things are being sought, including all sizes of diapers; hygiene products; granola bars and other snacks; jackets, gloves, shoes, socks and other clothing; bottled water; canned foods; pet foods; and toys.

Skip Tate, communication and marketing director for the Greater Cincinnati and Dayton region of the American Red Cross, said, “Our greatest need is actually for financial donations, because that’s how we can help the most people the quickest.”

Clothing donations, for example, must be cleaned and sorted, whereas, “if somebody gives financially, it allows us to meet the needs immediately,” he said.

Also, “They may need baby formula right now, and typically there’s not that kind of stuff in an in-kind donation, but a financial donation would allow them to go out and purchase that,” Tate said.

Contributions can be made through www.redcross.org and looking for the “donate” area. Donors can designate their money go toward Gatlinburg relief by writing a check and putting Gatlinburg in the memo line.

Already, Owens said, “We’ve had a lot of phone calls, a lot of people asking what they can do, how they can get it to us, and things like that. I know all of our Tennessee people would do the exact same thing if the same thing happened up in Ohio, so I thought, ‘Let’s bring some of Ohio’s caring and sharing down here.’”

The Owenses still have family in Middletown, and visit here at least once a month.

Teri Owens describes the Smoky Mountains area, about an hour drive from Knoxville, as “a beautiful, magical area that you have lakes around you, you have beautiful mountains, you have hiking trails, just a plethora of things to do, and just enjoy a country setting where you can just relax and get away from the busy-ness of the other worlds that we have.”

“It’s just low-key,” she said. “The people are just fantastic — they really care about you, they really want to know how your day is when they ask you. It’s a very slower pace of life.”

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