Rivals still uniting for greater cause

Katherine Martin

Bama Rocks!, a benefit concert held at WorkPlay Theatre in Birmingham, proved that a year after the devastating April 27 tornadoes, even the greatest of rivals can still work together to rebuild a state.

Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa is a relief organization that connects Auburn, Ala. to the devastation in the Tuscaloosa area on April 27. Toomer’s held the concert on June 1. It featured acts such as Todd Simpson, Hope For A Downfall and Alive in Wonderland. All of the musical guests played to promote storm recovery and tornado safety awareness.

Holly Shirley, executive director of Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa, said they were pleased with a “decent” turnout that raised $800 dollars in one night, despite fears the ticket price of $20 would keep some people from coming out.

Shirley said over a year after the destructive tornadoes swept through the state, Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa is not only hosting events such as Bama Rocks!, but also “still acts as a virtual command center and information clearing house.”

“There’s not as many of us — 20 to 30 people at any given time, a core group of 10 people — but when something happens, someone is on it,” she said.

Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa is starting to quantify the work it has done over the past year. However, with all that goes into the efforts, Shirley said it is hard to really measure. She reported the organization has raised about $86,000 and provided 122,000 meals over the past year.

The effort has not been isolated, though. Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa immediately started with a big picture perspective.

“It started with Auburn grads all across the nation,” Shirley said. “We just set up drop boxes to collect supplies. But we didn’t even know how we were going to get it back to Tuscaloosa. We ended up connecting with truck drivers, who would bring the supplies back to Tuscaloosa. Wherever the need was most urgent, that’s where the truck went.”

Now, Toomer’s For Tuscaloosa works to provide aid all over the state.

“We worked in Clay for eight weeks, helping set up a distribution center,” she said. “We worked with Tuscaloosa citizens — it was so cool.”

Students from both schools agree the alliance is proof of a united statewide community.

“Even though we take football seriously in the state of Alabama, we take helping our state seriously, too,” Tina Sheikhzeinoddin, a UA junior majoring in civil engineering, said. “In the end, football is just a sport. It was great for them to come help rebuild Tuscaloosa.”

As for the continuing efforts to help Tuscaloosa, Shirley said Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa is working on plans for future events, including another big concert for next spring. They have already collaborated with Tuscaloosa’s One Place this past winter to bring Christmas to 130 local kids who would not have had a Christmas otherwise. Now, plans to join forces again for Tuscaloosa’s One Place’s “Summer Fling” are in the works.

Haley Bruce, a sophomore studying pre-nursing at Auburn, commends the united front the two schools have been able to develop for a cause.

“I think it is extremely important that Alabama and Auburn students are able to put aside their differences and come together for a much bigger purpose: To provide for families in their communities who are in need,” she said.

Overall, Shirley said she is still amazed to see the schools’ mutual efforts.

“It’s been wild to see what people in this state will do to help other people. Everyone has given something.”