Last Tuesday, a team from Habitat for Humanity broke ground on what will be her new three-bedroom home. Nick’s Kids, a charity started by Nick and Terri Saban, will fund the house.
Jones’ house, the fifth built in the project, also owes credit to former football coach Frank Thomas, who coached Alabama to its fifth national championship.
For the thirteen Alabama championships, 13 new houses are headed by Nick’s Kids, Habitat for Humanity and Project Team Up. The “13 & 13” project has already built two houses with four more underway, aiming to finish all 13 by the end of this year.
Nick’s Kids is an organization for disabled kids, and it shifted its focus to tornado relief after the April storms.
“We were talking about building parks or something, but Nick said, ‘Look, we gotta put people in homes first,’” said Thad Turnipseed, director of athletic facilities.
“And that’s what started it.”
Tuscaloosa’s branch of Habitat for Humanity is responsible for 10 of the houses. Habitat volunteer coordinator Jared Patterson said that before the storm, Habitat was all but non-existent in Tuscaloosa.
“They made about one house every year or two,” he said. “They did as much as they could, but there wasn’t as much of a need for it. We had basically an office manager and a volunteer accountant.”
With “13 & 13” underway, Tuscaloosa’s Habitat is now equipped with a full staff, including a director, construction supervisors, community outreach coordinators and administrative volunteers.
Five months in, “13 & 13” has become something of a rallying point for a large but unfocused grassroots effort. Dozens of smaller organizations such as local churches and student groups have a hand in the project, and scores of volunteer teams have come to help out from across the country, as far as California, New Jersey and Michigan.
“Somebody from Nebraska will call in and say, ‘Hey, we’ve got 20 volunteers,’ and we’ll direct them to a house,” Patterson said.
But it all comes back to Nick and Terri.
“[Nick’s] the one that was adamant,” Turnipseed said.
Turnipseed said that behind the coach’s steely reputation is a very likeable guy.
“They try to do a lot of good things people don’t even know about,” he said.
In fact, Saban gives anything he makes other than his normal salary – including more than $2 million in sponsorships – to Nick’s Kids and his scholarship program for first-generation students, Turnipseed said.
Nick’s Kids had planned to fund a 14th house if Alabama won the National Championship this year. Saturday’s loss hurt those odds, but Patterson said Habitat won’t stop building when “13 & 13” is over.
“Nothing is going to slow us down after that,” he said. “We just want to see our town whole.”