Although the Samford University campus was spared damage or injuries during the devastating tornadoes that swept through the South on April 27, the university is responding to community needs. The university was able to continue normal operations while developing long-term plans for assisting with recovery.
As of Monday, May 2, at least one Samford alumna was confirmed dead in the storms. Although no students or employees were killed, many lost homes in the storms. The university is providing direct help to those families through the Employee Emergency Assistance Fund and a Student Emergency Assistance Fund, according to university officials.
The university also is working with local officials, such as the American Red Cross and Christian Service Mission, to ensure that needs are met, according to W. Randall Pittman, vice president for advancement. Pittman and Renie Moss, assistant dean for campus life, were asked by Samford President Andrew Westmoreland to coordinate the university’s response efforts.
Westmoreland plans to appoint a task force to provide coordination and planning for up to one year. He was an administrator at Ouachita Baptist University when an F5 tornado hit Arkadelphia, Ark., in 1997, and lessons he learned through that experience have guided his thoughts about what to do this time.
“We must remember that we are now engaged in a marathon, not a sprint,” Westmoreland said in a weekend email to the university community. “Let’s focus on immediate needs while remembering that “normal” may be a distant point on the horizon."
Among the university’s initial response:
- More than 300 students and employees were involved in relief work during the first full weekend of recovery efforts. Other support will continue in the weeks ahead. Information on recovery opportunities is being updated daily at www.samford.edu.
- A community prayer service is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday (May 3) in Reid Chapel on the Samford campus. It is a service for faculty, staff and students to join together to pray for those in our community who are suffering and in need.
- Students and faculty in Samford’s Ida V. Moffett School of Nursing are providing additional support for area hospitals that were helping those injured in the storms.
- The university is collecting items this week to be distributed to storm victims. A list of items needed is posted at www.samford.edu.
- A temporary shelter for up to 500 Red Cross relief workers has been set up in Bashinsky Field House and F. Page Seibert Hall.
- Access to Lucille Stewart Beeson Law Library is being provided for University of Alabama law students. Although UA has shut down regular operations, law students will still take final exams for the spring semester. Cumberland School of Law Dean John Carroll offered the law school’s facilities to their Tuscaloosa counterparts.
- A weekend football camp originally scheduled for Tuscaloosa was relocated at the last minute to Samford’s Seibert Stadium.
- Temporary shelter was provided on campus for at least one student family whose home was destroyed. The family had no renter’s insurance.
- A sold-out Avett Brothers concert Saturday night on campus turned into a benefit for storm victims with attendees bringing items to be distributed and a live auction that included a signed guitar by the popular group.
- Families of approximately 225 high school students visiting the campus Saturday for a preview day brought clothing, bottled water and cash donations for storm victims. Many had contacted the university after the storm to find out how they could help.
- Full-time employees can use two days for volunteer work through June 30 that does not count against vacation time.
- The Samford Parents Association is trying to organize ways for parents to participate as they come to campus to move their students home for the summer. As one parent noted in an email: “I am a parent who will be driving down to pick up my student in a couple weeks. My car will be rather empty on the way down to get him. I am thinking of filling it with donations from my community. I thought it might be a way for parents to add to the help that Samford is contributing.” Details will be posted at www.samford.edu/parents.
“I am grateful to be a part of an institution in which people care so deeply about meeting the needs of others,” Westmoreland said. “We mourn for those who lost their lives, and for the families coping with staggering losses.”