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Dolly Parton releases first payouts to Tennessee wildfire victims

Dolly Parton's fundraising effort for victims of the Tennessee wildfires has begun to help those affected by the disaster.

Victims of the Tennessee wildfires have received their first payments from the $9.3 million (£7.53 million) relief fund set up by Dolly Parton.

The country legend set up the Dollywood Foundation My People Fund in the wake of Sevier County, Tennessee, the area in which she grew up, being devastated last month (Nov16) by fires which also threatened her Dollywood theme park.

884 families affected by the fires, which killed at least 14 and left hundreds homeless, have received initial payments from the charity, which will distribute cheques of $1,000 (£810) each month to Sevier County families whose homes were destroyed or made uninhabitable by the disaster.

"It's a blessing during this holiday season that we are able to help as many families as we have so far," Dolly said in a statement. "We know there are more families out there who need our help and we encourage them to be in contact with us before our January distribution."

Dolly launched her charity push at the start of this month (Dec16) with the fires still raging and staged a star-studded charity telethon which helped raise the $9.3 million.

Stars who joined the Jolene singer for the Smoky Mountains Rise: A Benefit for the My People Fund telethon included Cyndi Lauper, Don McLean, Kenny Rogers, Chris Young, Chris Stapleton and Reba McEntire.

"As Dolly said, the response has been overwhelming," David Dotson, the president of the Dollywood Foundation said. "We will distribute all $9.3 million to the families affected. That will ensure all of the money raised will go to where Dolly promised it would."

Celebrities including Taylor Swift, Kenny Chesney, Paul Simon and Dierks Bentley also made significant donations to the fund.

After the telethon Dolly told The Tennessean, "I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who have donated from all over the country and to my friends who donated their time, their talent, and money for My People."

Two unnamed youths have been charged with aggravated arson in connection with starting the fires, which set Tennessee's Smoky Mountains national park ablaze.

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