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

Tuscaloosa residents seek shelter at community center

At the Belk Community Center in Tuscaloosa on Hargrove Drive and Bowers Park Drive, residents affected by Wednesday’s storms can find food, shelter, medicine and Red Cross support.

At the center, displaced residents and a number of DCH patients sit and wait, some wrapped in blankets or bandaged from injuries, for prescriptions and other services. Meanwhile, volunteers and Red Cross officials rush to register newcomers, unload incoming donations from churches and local businesses and attend to those in need.

Oscar Barnes, the executive director of the West Alabama chapter of the American Red Cross, said the Belk Community Center is now functioning as a shelter for those that have been affected by the disaster.

“It’s important for them to get in for food and get out of the weather,” Barnes said. “We will provide clothes for those who need clothes as well.”

Barnes said it’s most important for the Tuscaloosa residents affected to come to a place of safety such as the Belk Community Center in order to regroup after experiencing an event of this magnitude.

“It’s important for them to have a place to stay because they’ve gone through such a traumatic experience,” Barnes said. “They need to calm down and get out of the disaster zone. They’ve seen their houses torn apart and they need to get in and get settled. A lot of them didn’t sleep last night and just talked about what went on.”

Samuel Crispin, a resident of Tuscaloosa whose house was on 28th Street, is now finding solace at the center.

“We were on the porch, barbecuing, and the next thing you know everything is quiet and people started hollering to get inside the house,” Crispin said. “By the time I got into the house my family was on the floor, so I got on the floor in the living room.”

“The house started to shake and I was holding onto the couch. I look up and the roof was taken off and my legs were being pulled up by the wind. It was like it was trying to carry me away. I let go of the couch and it threw me and I hit a piece of wood.”

Crispin is currently in a wheelchair with an injured foot, previously injured leg and multiple cuts from glass on his head and arms.

“I plan on staying here,” Crispin said. “I’m homeless right now. My whole neighborhood was affected. By the grace of God I am still alive. All we can do is pray for all the kids that have gotten hurt and are trapped under debris.”

Barnes said at this time the center will continue to function as a shelter for an indeterminate amount of time.

“It’s hard to judge the number of days that we will be doing this,” Barnes said. “We just know we will maintain shelter for quite a while. We’ll keep it open and give as much assistance as we can.”

Barnes estimated that there are about 500 people currently in the shelter and about 20 to 30 volunteers.

There has been an influx of volunteers at the center, including a large number of student volunteers, to the point where many were turned away and told to come back next week.

Adam Seale, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering said, “We have more volunteers than we have jobs. As tragic as it is, it’s heartwarming to see so much support for our community. It’s fantastic to see so many people.”

Carly James, a senior majoring in anthropology, said they are taking lists of volunteers for the next couple of weeks. For right now, the Red Cross only needs people with special skills such as Spanish speakers or those with power tools.

“We heard through word of mouth about volunteering here and at St. Mathias, and they also directed students here during the a volunteer meeting in the Ferguson Center this morning,” James said.

“We have been so fortunate that so many students have come and volunteered,” Barnes said. “It makes us proud that so many have come forward to help other people.”

Barnes called for donations in order to helping continuing efforts by the Red Cross.

“This is an opportunity for them to get their lives back together,” Barnes said. “The ability for us to respond comes from donations we receive from the community. We appreciate donations to help us prepare and respond.”

Those interested in donating can go onto or seek out the West Alabama chapter of the American Red Cross.

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