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

Red Cross helps rebuild


After the April 27 tornado, the American Red Cross was forced to relocate. While the West Alabama chapter had problems of its own, they still answered the call to help the residents of Tuscaloosa in the aftermath of the storm.

“Immediately after any disaster, including the tornado, our goal is to get in and be able to see what the needs of the people are, and with anything as large as that particular tornado was, and as devastating, we knew there were going to be sheltering needs,” said Sarah McPherson, health and safety services director. “We had people on stand-by to open up shelters, and that was our first goal after the tornado—to give people a safe, warm place to stay and have food available for them.”

The Red Cross provided shelters and counseling for citizens affected by the tornado. According to assistant professor and Red Cross volunteer Suzanne Horsley, the organization provided three meals a day and delivered food and drinks in Red Cross emergency response vehicles to heavily affected areas.

Though the last shelter closed on June 10, the Red Cross continues to help those who were affected by the storm physically and mentally to recover, while also taking care of other daily responsibilities, such as fire incidents, Horsley said.

“The chapter is part of a long-term planning committee in Tuscaloosa that is working to address needs of the community as we start to rebuild,” Horsley said in an emailed statement. “We are also continuing to do casework for clients, in which Red Cross personnel work with individuals and families who still need help recovering from the storm.”

The Red Cross has moved to a temporary office at 325 Skyland Blvd. E., across from Skyland Elementary School. Training sessions will take place at the training center located in University Mall near the Piccadilly Cafeteria entrance. Health and safety, disaster and community education classes will be available.

One specific class that will be offered in July will educate participants on what to do if emergency services cannot get to affected areas or people in the allotted time and how to help yourself and neighbors. The center will also serve as the Red Cross merchandise sales headquarters. Items such as first aid kits, clothing, weather radios and emergency water collection devices will be in stock.

“We slowly transitioned,” McPherson said. “We are open for business; we just had to relocate and keep going. Hopefully we will take [the new training facility] and make a positive turnout of it and be more available and more visible in our community.”

Many donations have been generated through text messaging where people can text “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation and also by calling the Relief Fund Hotline. While the Red Cross helps Tuscaloosa to make progress, Horsley says it is not the Red Cross alone.

“The Red Cross was one part of a huge effort to help the community recover,” she said. “Every group who has done something for tornado relief has brought its own specialty to the table, and the Red Cross specialty is helping individuals and families who have immediate needs following a disaster.

“I have been so proud of how all groups, regardless of their area of specialty, came together for a common purpose to help the people of West Alabama recover from this massive disaster. No single organization could do this alone –it took a lot of hard work from many diverse organizations to help.”

McPherson and Horsely said the Red Cross is always looking for and accepting volunteers; to get involved, call 205-758-3608.

To learn more about the American Red Cross, visit their website at The West Alabama chapter also has a Facebook page (BamaRedCross), Twitter account (@Bamaredcross) and a blog (


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