As everyone knows, this area of the country was hit hard by the outbreak of tornadoes last week. Starting in Tuscaloosa, a tornado traveled some 200-plus miles through Alabama and into Georgia, leaving a path of destruction along the way.
I've only been able to get out to help once since it all happened. Sunday was the day. I'm still trying to wrap my head and heart around what I saw and I hope to share my experience, pictures and videos with you all on the blog here within the next week.
But for now, I wanted to share with you a story that appeared on our website today. It tells of the hearts of our amazing student-athletes, young men and women that I have the pleasure to work with every day. Students whose hearts explode for the people and communities around them in their darkest times.
The story is posted below. Please keep the disaster victims in your prayers as well as the thousands of people who are pouring out their hearts, lives and wallets to aid in relief. And pray that God continues to grow young people like the ones in this story.
May 4, 2011
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - An estimated 100 Samford student-athletes spent most of the weekend volunteering in Pratt City, Ala., helping victims of last week's tornado outbreak.
Pratt City is one of many areas in the state of Alabama that was hit hard by the severe weather that came through the area last Wednesday. Scott Elementary School served as a base for collecting supplies people needed. Samford's student-athletes helped with delivering supplies to victims of the storms.
One of the groups of student-athletes who traveled to Pratt City to assist with the clean-up was football player Devyn Keith, along with teammates Bill Kottas, Jacobi Rodriguez and Jeremy Towns, and women's basketball player Jazmine Powers.
"Right after we saw the disaster, J.T. (Towns) and I immediately got on the phone, calling people, because we understood that those were people that we knew," Keith said. "After seeing what happened in Huntsville, I'm from Huntsville, and since I couldn't get up there, I said `let me go and see what happened to these people.' I didn't get to go down that day because I had to work, but we went down on Friday.
"We felt like it was an obligation," Keith said. "When you see that type of thing, you can't do anything but help, because here at Samford we were so blessed to not be affected that much by the tornados."
The group of athletes filled Kottas' truck with supplies and went down to Cherry Avenue, which was hit hard by the storms, checking door-to-door with people to see what supplies they needed.
One of the more touching stories that came out of this experience came from Keith. As he was working in the area, a lady pulled up in her car and Keith stopped her to see if she needed anything. She asked him if he was going to take care of her. He responded, "No, ma'am. I can't take care of you. God's going to take care of you. I'm just going to help out."
As the lady cried in her car, Keith reached in and hugged her and let her continue to cry. Keith loaded her car with sandwiches and other supplies. He then told her that he loved her and that everything was going to be alright. "We told her we loved her and we prayed for her," Keith said.
"She said she was really moved by the fact that we were out there. She said she had lost everything."
Powers said she had planned to go home that weekend, but she had a feeling she needed to help out in Pratt City.
"I was originally going to go home that Friday after class, but something just told me I needed to go and experience this," Powers said. "I was even packing up and my mind just shifted, telling me I needed to go. I got some stuff that I wasn't using in the house like soap and some other items I had and I just took it over and we went down there."
Powers said the experience of helping people who had just lost everything was something that really touched her. She said it was a tremendous experience.
"It was very emotional, but at the same time, you knew you were doing something great," Powers said. "I went to one lady's house, she was there by herself, and I brought a case of water into her kitchen. She just broke down and cried and gave me a hug. She said it was good to know that there are good people out there and that God is good and he is still looking after us.
"That was the part that was emotional for me, because they would get emotional, knowing that people were out there trying to help," Powers said. "It was a great experience and I was so glad I went over there."
Caroline Summers, Samford's senior photographer, was on hand to document the relief efforts for the university. Summers said she was touched by the efforts of the Samford students.
"I have always felt that I was blessed to work on a campus filled with such amazing people, both faculty and students," Summers said. "But, I must say, that I have never been prouder to be associated with Samford University than I was this weekend. These students don't just help out for something to do, they truly care."