I have been greatly impressed by seeing the amazing work of the Trails Forever crew on the Forney Ridge and Chimney Tops Trails, and now on the Alum Cave Trail. Thanks to their professional work (aided by volunteers), these trails have been improved more than any time since the work of the CCC. And thanks to the Friends of the Smokies for securing the funding to enable the Trails Forever crew to do their work.
Surely this is just one of many examples of how Friends of the Smokies is making a significant impact on our dearly loved Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
This is an organization that is so amazing words can not describe the benefits is has done for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Over the many years we have been associated with The Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Inc, they have been as professional as forthright with the millions of dollars that have been donated to the park. They has used their funds to help establish the Trails Forever program which has provided for a permanent crew to work on the rehabilitation for various trails that have fallen into disarray of the many years of hard use and weathering. This program had a challenge grant to raise $2,000,000 which was matched by a local organization and the Friends turned this into reality.
Having visitor friendly trails has made the rehabilitated tails become safer and brought new visitors to the park as well. Further programs have been to establish new exhibits for the new Oconaluftee Visitor Center on the North Carolina side of the park near Cherokee, NC. The previous visitor center was very old and extremely small.
Each year the association coordinates the Evergreen Ball in Knoxville, TN to raise money for the park as well as holding other outside programs that do the same. There are days whereby volunteers take hikers on special trail hikes and this continues to support the efforts of the association to raise and make the hikers more aware of the park and their surroundings.
The staff of the association work endlessly to speak with individuals about their donations and the importance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. You have never seen such passion and unselfish employees that continue to dedicate their time for one and only one reason, The Park.
As a final note of to show the associations dedication to the park, each August for over 20 years, the association has run a telethon on two television stations, one in Knoxville, TN and the other out of Asheville, NC. These stations dedicate one hour to the telethon and believe it or not, the telethon raises approximately $240,000 in very kind donations from individuals that all have the love for this park and the association's work for it.
If you believe in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you should become a member of the Friends.
The Friends of Great Smoky Mountain National Park is THE most giving, influential, and effective non-profit organization of which I have ever witnessed or been a participant. I have volunteered as a campground host for the Smoky Mountain National Park since 2006. I have seen first hand the difference FOTS has made in the community, the park, and the volunteer program! The states of NC and Tenn benefit from the efforts of education, conservation, preservation, and participation provided by FOTS. As a result of my involvement with the FOTS, I seek to share their vision and to involve all of my contacts in partnering with their programs by donating or volunteering in order that this national treasure is protected for generations to come!
The entire staff of the FOTS is dedicated, enthusiastic, friendly, and eager to lend their support to enhance or initiate activity for the benefit of millions of annual visitors. They are literally my FRIENDS as well!
I live very close to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and visit the Park frequently. I am an avid hiker and fly fisherman. Friends of the Smokies plays a vital role in funding significant activities and projects in the Park. FOTS is a very professional organization with passionate, enthusiastic and skilled staff. I had the opportunity to work as a volunteer with The Trails Forever crew on the Chimney Tops Trail. This is an amazing program that FOTS facilitates and the improvements made to the trails they have rehabilitated will last for generations to come.
The financial figures for Friends of the Smokies for Fiscal Year 2008 do not reflect $916,924 raised in 2008 for three internally-managed endowments that will all benefit the Smokies’ 800+ miles of recreational trails. This data on internally managed endowments is not currently included in the Charity Navigator ranking system.
Visitors to Charity Navigator should keep this information in mind when looking at this data and determining the true level effectiveness of the organization and its total impact on park resources and visitors.
Additionally, the information below can help provide additional perspective on Friends’ most recent financial reports.
In 2010, the organization added more than $1.218 million to the internally managed Trails Forever endowment, but based on current accounting standards, those funds do not show up as an official park support expense, even though those funds are clearly restricted for improvements to park trails (as shown on page 13 of the 2010 audit).
At the park’s request, Friends of the Smokies also spent more than $782,000 in 2010 to buy a 20-acre inholding (as summarized on page 12 of the 2010 audit). That purchase will not show up as an official park support expense until the land is transferred to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a process that takes several months to finish, probably sometime in 2011.
The two above-mentioned efforts total more than $2 million in 2010, which paints a very different picture of how Friends really supports Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The Friends of the Smokies organization is by far one of the greatest organizations related to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The FOTS staff are some of the most passionate and dedicated folks I know, and I have proudly volunteered alongside them with much enthusiasm and pride. I must say, I have always been amazed at how every Friends event runs smoothly and no loose ends are to be found. This organization knows what it means to cross their t’s and dot their i’s. As a lover of the mountains, I will support them at every opportunity and continue to encourage others to do so as well.
Crystal- Thank you for your hard work improving trails in the Smokies, and assisting with events. You are a great photographer, and a wonderful Friend of the Smokies!
Review from Guidestar
I've volunteered for Friends of the Smokies for 4 years by working on their annual Evergreen Ball, telethon, and programs that they assist such as the Gatlinburg Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage. Many wonderful programs and projects that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park provides would not be possible without the support from the FOS. The money they raise helps fund the Hemlock Protection program, Parks as Classrooms, and Trails Forever. These are critically needed projects for the future environmental health of the park and the enjoyment of the millions of people who visit.
I've enjoyed being a volunteer for the Friends of the Smokies due to the dedicated, hard-working, and fun staff at their office.
Thank you, Leslie! You are a joy to work with in our office, at our Telethon (coming up on August 11th!), and you hard work in recruiting auction items for our Evergreen Ball is so very deeply appreciated. Thank you for your kindness and generosity. And for this fabulous review!
Review from Guidestar
The Smokies have become my home. They would not have attracted me so, nor kept me here if it were not for the unbelievable work and accomplishments of Friends of the Smokies.
I first really understood what goes on behind the scenes in the Great Smoky Mountains national park (GSMNP) as a member of media. Past the press releases, events and hoopla, in my research I saw what it took to educate the public, protect the cultural and natural resources and make the park a place where more than 9 million visitors a years are drawn too.
Working as a volunteer in the park in various programs, I see firsthand how Friends of the Smokies has responded to the needs of the park, forever positively influencing its resources and visitors. For example, I volunteer in the parks Elk restoration program. The all electric vehicle I drive along with the elk would not be here without the Friends.
Less obvious to any visitor, but crucial to science, is the GSMNP’s All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) project where scientists with the help of citizen volunteers such as myself, have found more than 7,101 new species previously not known to be in the Park, and 910 species new to mankind.
This ATBI project could not have happened without the years of support offered from Friends of the Smokies. Scientists will be forever grateful for what has been found as a result of this program.
Hike on a trail that has been, or is being restored, visit the cabin in Little Cataloochee that was vandalized and completely rebuilt, marvel and learn from the displays in the new visitor center in Oconaluftee, fish in a stream that has had its native brook trout restored – it is all because of the Friends of the Smokies and those that support this great organization.
The park service cannot do what needs to be done alone, and it is only going to get worse. Every day more species are disappearing from the park even before we can find them, historic buildings need bats removed along with other restoration work performed in order to protect them for future generations, and through public education, a visitor experience will improve as well as resource protection. With the Friends support, this can be done.
I know at anytime that the great staff at the Friends is just a phone call or email away.
I can’t imagine my life without the Great Smoky Mountains national park, nor can I imagine the park without Friends of the Smokies. It just wouldn’t be the same.
I have tears in my eyes. You, sir, are a true Friend of the Smokies. Thank you for your support, your eloquence, and for the thousands of volunteer hours you donate selflessly to our national park.
Review from Guidestar
As the President of PDS Web Development, I have worked closely with many non-profits. It is incredibly rare to see a charitable organization accomplish so much good, in a way that impacts so many people, with such a small staff, and so few financial resources. Their sincere love of the Smoky Mountains is ever present as the staff endeavors to preserve, protect, and provide for the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The Millions of park visitors benefit from Jim's leadership by example, Lauren's "Midas touch" in event planning, Holly's strategically pushing the technology envelope in non-profit marketing, and Nan's timely and professional financial navigation, not to mention the passionate and tireless efforts of Sarah or Kathyrn. The plants, animals, environment, and visitors enjoy the fruits of your many labors. You make such a difference!
Robert- Thank you for not only being our vendor-of-choice for our web design, but for being our Friend. Your work on the 75th Anniversary site for Great Smoky Mountains National Park was amazing, and thank you for helping us keep that site "alive". Thank you for your kind review, and for always helping us find cost-effective solutions to stay on top of technological changes.
I have the greatest regard for Friends of the Smokies organization and have had opportunity to interact with staff in the office setting and at special events where I've worked as a volunteer, including Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage each April and Wilderness Wildlife Week each January for last 5 or more years.
All of the staff seem to love the Smoky Mountains and appear to be super-dedicated to making everything they do help the GSMNP Park Service. It appears every event they put together turns out to be a 5-star, 1st-class endeavor.
One particular event I found awesome was the way they were able to help the GSM Park Service pull the "Once in a Lifetime" Cades Cove Loop Lope together on such short notice when it was learned the contracted service to resurface roadways was going to be complete earlier than planned, and it turned out to be such a tremendous success!!! I felt honored to get to work as a volunteer for that, too, and hope they will be able to make it an annual event, perhaps on the first Saturday of April or May.
It is always great to read about the Evergreen Ball each year, and in 2009, they did such a great job for an entire year of events for the 75th Anniversary and Rededication Ceremony.
I realize that FOTS' primary role and biggest achievements are in relation to the donations that support so many programs for the GSM Park Service, but they are so much more personal than just fund-raising folks, and I feel honored to have had contact with them over the years.
I strive for the day I can provide more financial support, but 'til then, will have to enjoy the privilege of the volunteer hours I can give.
Thank you so much, Nancy. We value your volunteer support. You always have wonderful ideas and suggestions! Thank you for traveling from Alabama to volunteer with us in Tennessee. You are amazing.