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

    Southern schools show outpouring of support for Tuscaloosa

    An EF-4 tornado not only swept the city of Tuscaloosa and the state of Alabama on April 27; it broke down the barriers built from intense football rivalry in the SEC. Wildcats, tigers, gamecocks, two types of bulldogs, gators, vols, commodores and even bald eagles have joined in the disaster relief efforts to aid the University of Alabama at this time.

    “Watching the news last night and reading Twitter and Facebook postings, we learned firsthand about the unbelievable acts of heroism and sacrifice individuals across the South made to help one another,” Ryan Smith, student body president at the University of Kentucky said in a press release the day after the tornado struck. “Life is about serving others and helping out when the time comes. This is an opportunity to help a member of our SEC family and we’re here to do what we can to make this time easier for some struggling to recover.”

    The SGA immediately partnered with an alumnus, Grant Mills, and the local chapter of “Wrap Up America” to send blankets to people in trouble, according to University of Kentucky spokeswoman Katy Bennett. She said people could go online to donate 3 dollars, which will send a blanket to Alabama.

    Mills said “Wrap Up America” is a fairly new national organization that exists on seven college campuses and generally works to give blankets to underprivileged families and to spread awareness about homelessness.

    “When the tornado hit Tuscaloosa, we realized a lot of people had been displaced from their homes and apartments, and we thought it would be a great way to help those in Alabama who have nothing,” Mills said. “We really just had this grassroots effort on Facebook and Twitter to bring awareness to the severity of the situation in Tuscaloosa.”

    He said the organization set a goal of 1,000 blankets for the tornado victims in Alabama. So far they have received 800 blankets, which are being sent directly to the SGA at the University of Alabama for distribution to those in need.

    “The entire University of Alabama community greatly appreciates the support from Wrap Up America, as well as the countless other groups that have provided support since the devastating tornado tore through the Tuscaloosa area,” UA SGA President Grant Cochran said in an official statement.

    Additionally the Office of Student Involvement and Center for Community Outreach at the University of Kentucky have partnered to host a toiletry drive, in which they will mail supplies to Tuscaloosa every Friday in May.

    Other universities in the SEC are lending a helping hand in similar ways. Louisiana State University created a Tigers for the Tide Drive, to collect backpacks or tote bags filled with toiletry items. The Student Association at Mississippi State University took a similar approach by organizing a drive to collect needed supplies.

    “I actually graduated high school with Grant Cochran, and so I checked in with him the night the storm hit to find out what we could do at that point to help out,” said Mississippi State University Student Association President Rhett Hobart. “I wanted to find a way to partner our student governments and student bodies to help each other out. Obviously there is a rivalry surrounding the student bodies, but when something like this comes up, you have to put that aside and help out.”

    Hobart said MSU worked on collecting supplies including toiletries and non- perishable foods.

    “We filled an entire room in our student union building,” Hobart said. “That became the collection point for the city and for our campus. Then the University gave us a large U-Haul truck exactly a week after the storm hit, and about 20 of us took the supplies to Tuscaloosa.”

    Hobart said they unloaded their donations at Temporary Emergency Services, located on 15th Street that morning.

    “In the afternoon, Samaritan’s Purse sent us out to a lady’s home to help her salvage what was left of her belongings,” he said. “Some students drove back to Starkville after finals ended just to go with us on this trip. We all wanted to do what we could to help out.”

    From supply drives such as the ones at the University of South Carolina and the University of Tennessee to calls for donations and volunteers on the university homepages, such as Vanderbilt, the SEC schools seem to be reaching out to UA at this time.

    Don Reagin, Director of Marketing and Communications for the University of Georgia said tentative plans are underway for UGA students to visit Tuscaloosa as part of Alternative Spring Break (ASB) in March.

    “If logistics prevent that trip from being scheduled, ASB site leaders and executive board members will come to Tuscaloosa to undertake relief efforts as part of Alternative Winter Break in January,” he said.

    He also noted that the student led Facebook group “Dawgs for Tuscaloosa” is a source of information for students wishing to donate or volunteer to the relief efforts.

    “I went to Alabama my freshman year, and so when I saw the carnage and stuff like that, it kind of really hit me, and I was frustrated that no one was doing anything,” said the group’s creator, Caroline Edwards, a junior majoring in public relations. “But then I was like, well I could do something, so I started Dawgs for Tuscaloosa as a support group to say UGA is totally here for those affected by the tornado.”

    She said the support group has gained 2,817 fans, well exceeding the 500 she originally anticipated.

    “We have already taken a carful of donations down, and we have two more going down on Thursday,” she said. “People have really come out and supported.”

    The SEC as a whole donated $500,000 to the University of Alabama to aid students, faculty and staff in the wake of a disaster ranked to be on the same scale as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. This contribution will supplement other individual institutional contributions and fundraising efforts.

    Another school that has contributed significantly to the relief efforts isn’t in the SEC at all. Two students at Georgia Southern University, the home of the bald eagles, organized a fundraiser selling “Georgia Southern Supports the Tide” t-shirts, in which they have raised $9,100 to be donated to the American Red Cross chapter in Tuscaloosa.

    “I was really hurt by the devastation, and we wanted to do something to help,” said one of the founders of the fundraiser, Hayden Harrison, a junior majoring in restaurant tourism management. “I thought it would be kind of cute to go with the Southern Tide logo, so we convinced them to give us their licensing for this one time trademark shirt.”

    Harrison’s sorority sister in Kappa Kappa Gamma, Megan Fussell, designed the shirt, which has a GSU houndstooth support ribbon on the front and the saying ‘Southern Supports the Tide’ under it. On the back, there is the Southern Tide skipjack logo.

    “I never really thought we would sell 1,400 shirts or that it would reach this magnitude,” Fussell said. “I have been overwhelmed by the love and support we have gotten from our community. And the amazing thing is, most people may not even know anyone in Tuscaloosa.”

    The girls said they are pleased with the results of their fundraiser, and are happy that Southern Tide is donating $50,000 worth of merchandise to Tuscaloosa as well.

    All of the schools have coordinated these efforts in the midst of various stages of Dead Week, finals week, and even interim session. As the profile picture on the Dawgs for Tuscaloosa Facebook page says, “Today, we’re all Tide.”

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