Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Church receives donation to rebuild after tornado

Tornado damage to the College Hill Baptist Church may have been a burden, but the Rev. Kelvin Croom, pastor of the church, described all other repercussions as a blessing.

In 2011, a rampant tornado swept through Tuscaloosa, wiping out a large portion of the surrounding area. Of those places affected, the College Hill Baptist Church is still working toward recovery almost three years later.

“It destroyed the church,” Croom said. “Everything was destroyed but the office.”

Croom took over his position in the church for his father in 1993. He said the church had planned to do an addition in 2008, but the trustees kept putting off the plans. By January 2011, the church still had not undergone the addition.

(See also “Researchers study tornado’s psychological effects on children“)

A week before the storm, Croom spoke to his congregation regarding the weather predictions.

“I told them that God had shown me there would be a storm we have never seen before,” he explained. “I didn’t think I would make it through.”

When the storm hit Wednesday, April 27, 2011, Croom was unable to make it to the site to survey the damages until the following Saturday.

“There were just remnants left,” Croom said.

Fortunately for the members of College Hill, the University Church of Christ opened the doors of their Campus View Auditorium, and the congregation was able to continue meeting through December 2013. At this time, the scheduling between the two churches was no longer coordinated, and College Hill moved to its current location, the Belk Center off Bowers Road. However, holding services in a gymnasium did not stop the members from coming to worship.

“I think we’re doing good about moving from place to place,” Diane Lee, a member of College Hill, said. “Wherever the church goes, I’m going.”

With a temporary location established, the main goal shifted to rebuilding a church for permanent use. The board established a financial plan and sought help from friends of Croom’s father, the late Rev. Sylvester Croom, Sr. However, aid arrived sooner than expected.

“Unbeknownst to us, we had a benefactor that heard our story and has given $3.25 million to build the church,” Croom said.

(See also “Shelters, research prevent tornadoes’ effects“)

The next step was finding the right architect for the job. Croom said the architect needed to capture the vision for the church that he and the trustees saw.

After one unsuccessful attempt, the board asked about a Dallas-based architect.

“We told the gentleman that God would give him the vision,” Croom said. “And he did.”

The new architect presented his plans and received unanimous approval from the board. College Hill will rebuild on the site of the old church off University Boulevard in Alberta. With only one correction to make on the plans, construction could begin within six weeks.

“I’m excited for the new church,” College Hill member Shirley Lee said. “With each transition, the people have recognized each church as home.”

The construction is predicted to take around eight months with three different phases. The new church will be community-based, hopefully to include a facility specifically designed for accomodating autistic children and their parents. Members also hope to add a school component for kids and safe rooms for extreme weather.

Croom said the church looked to Exodus on multiple occasions after the tornado, finding a special connection to Moses and traveling. He added that although there were people who lost faith in that period, the tornado brought together churches that were normally secluded because of denomination and race.

“Relationships have been built and friendships have been made, all because of a storm,” he said. “I’m proud to be an American but more proud to be an Alabamian.”

(See also “University students chase tornadoes across the region“)

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