Sweet charity: Hartly woman brings aid to Tenn. wildfire victims

Karen Ptak

DOVER — Karen Ptak couldn’t believe her eyes when she turned on her television and saw wildfires raging through the Great Smoky Mountains and the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee, on Nov. 28.

After all, Ms. Ptak, of Hartly, remembered Gatlinburg as being such a beautiful, vibrant area when she had visited on vacation and a place where she met such wonderful people.

However, she soon found out that the disaster was very much real and had, in fact, destroyed or damaged more than 2,460 buildings and structures, caused 14 deaths and brought more than $500 million in damage to the area.

So Ms. Ptak, who works as a business development representative for Dover International Speedway, decided to do something about it.

“We have been on vacation in Gatlinburg before in one of the cabins and had a wonderful time,” she said. “It is beautiful country and I just felt that if we got some family and friends together we could help.”

Hartly’s Karen Ptak and her daughter Melinda brought in enough donations for the recent eastern Tennessee wildfire victims to fill up two large vans, two trailers and one pickup truck full. (Submitted photo)

Ms. Ptak then organized a supply drive that gathered up enough charitable items to fill two large 15- to 20-passenger vans, a pair of trailers and one pickup truck.

“We filled them up with non-perishable food, clothes, bedding, toiletries, toys, you name it,” said Ms. Ptak. “It was something that started out on a relatively small scale but then really kind of really ballooned up on us.”

Dover Downs Hotel & Casino heard about her cause and donated some surplus food, kitchen supplies and bathroom items.

The project grew to be even bigger than she had imagined.

Fortunately her son, Bobby Cutchin, informed her that his company, H&M Bay out of Federalsburg, Maryland, would be making trips with tractor trailers to deliver supplies to eastern Tennessee in late December.

All of the charitable goods that were collected by Ms. Ptak and her daughter Melinda over the course of just a couple of weeks finally found their way to the Gatlinburg area on Dec. 19, just in time for the holidays.

H&M Bay was able to fill two tractor-trailer loads of goods – including Ms. Ptak’s – over a two-week span and ship them to eastern Tennessee.

“I can’t say enough about my son’s trucking firm transporting all of the stuff for free,” Ms. Ptak said. “I knew if we could get some friends and family together, put together a Facebook page and get Dover Downs involved that we could at least try to make a positive difference for some families that were in need.”

Gary Camp, assistant vice president of marketing and communications for Dover International Speedway, said that Ms. Ptak’s acts of kindness and charity are not something new to her co-workers.

She has worked at the speedway for 20 years and also works part-time for Dover Downs Hotel & Casino in the Race & Sports Book.

“Karen is always one of the first members of our team to raise her hand to help out any way she can,” Mr. Camp said. “She is incredibly compassionate and kind and always goes the extra mile.

“She works diligently all day long, and we hear through the grapevine about her charitable efforts outside of work, too. This effort to aid the less fortunate in Tennessee is just another example of her kindness. She really is the best.”

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