Businesses, residents aid in tornado relief

Published 12:18 pm Saturday, April 30, 2011

First National Bank & Trust employees, from left, John Brantley and Alisha McDuffie; United Bank employee Tina Brooks; FNB&T Vice President Rene Godwin and American Distribution employee Michael McDonald load a trailer full of food and supplies headed for Tuscaloosa.|Photo by Adam Prestridge

Businesses and residents in Atmore are paying it forward this weekend as several prepare to transport much-needed supplies to tornado-riddled counties in north Alabama.

Pee Wee Bowens, an employee of Pepsi Cola Bottling of Atmore, could be seen Friday afternoon weaving his forklift through numerous pallets piled high with supplies for transport to Cullman County, which suffered a huge blow during Wednesday’s massive tornado that ripped through the state killing more than 200 people.

Pepsi, along with many other Atmore businesses, have been collecting both monetary donations and supplies to send to various parts of the state as relief efforts continue. Atmore Mayor Howard Shell said after enduring two destructive hurricanes in two years, giving back to those areas that helped southern communities such as Atmore is the least the city could do.

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“Having been through (Hurricane) Ivan, we have a feel for what these people are going through and we knew we had to do something,” he said Friday morning. “We know all of the needs that we needed during our time of need and we felt that we needed to send them as much help as we could.”

Shell said the city teamed up with Pepsi employees, which along with firefighters, began manning a tornado relief drop off location for food and supplies at the corner of Hwy. 31 and Presley Street at noon on Friday accepting donations throughout the weekend.

“People are calling from all over town; everybody wants to help,” Shell said. “I think we are going to have a big outpouring of people who want to help.”

The drop off location will be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. Saturday and from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday. Shell said an Atmore Police Department officer would escort the 18-wheeler, provided by Pepsi, Monday morning to Cullman County.

“There are an awful lot of people in serious need and they are just devastated throughout north Alabama,” Shell said. “We are going to do everything we can to help them.”

The City of Atmore is sending more than 100 cots and blankets accumulated during Ivan to the devastated city, along with the supplies collected over the weekend.

In addition, First National Bank & Trust and United Bank teamed up to send a trailer load of supplies to Mobile for transport to Tuscaloosa as part of American Distributions relief efforts.

FNB&T Vice President Rene Godwin said the tornadoes in north Alabama also brought back memories of the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Ivan. She said the need for help in the areas hit hardest by the tornadoes was “so great.”

“Hurricane Ivan can back to mind and how aid poured in from all over the country,” she said.

Michael McDonald, an employee with American Distributions, traveled to Atmore Friday morning to pick up the food and supplies each bank collected to transport by trailer, while Pepsi employee Deauntea Grant used a forklift to load four, 50-case pallets of water donated by United Bank, which also raised $1,475 to buy much-needed food and supplies.

“We had a lot of support from entities outside of the area, so this is our chance to do a little bit to payback,” United Bank President Bob Jones said. “The staff came forward and said they wanted to do something and I told them to go for it. Everybody has friends and contacts up there and we all want to do something to help.”

In addition, First National Bank raised more than $700 in less than two hours Thursday afternoon to purchase supplies. Godwin said teaming up with United Bank employees was a great example of a community pulling together for a good cause.

“United Bank and the United Bank employees are great community partners,” she said. “My sister, Tina Brooks, works at United and called to say, ‘We need to do something…it’s so sad’ and from there, we went to work thanks to assistance from Kyna Bonner, Michael McDonald and all the employees at United Bank and First National Bank & Trust. There are no better people than the folks we work with everyday.”

Jones agreed.

“We’re all in this together,” he said. “When there’s a need like this it’s just common courtesy to help; its just good people joining together to make a difference. We’re just fortunate to have two groups willing to do it.”

Jones added that United Bank is a member of the Alabama Recovery Coalition, which primarily deals with the financial service sector. He said that the ARC members participate and monitor issues and questions that may come up in the northern counties that were hit from the powerful tornado. He said issues that arise are getting access to branches in the storm areas closed off and dealing with cash shortages in nearby cities due to power outages and destruction in areas where cash is not available.

Additional Tornado Relief Efforts

Atmore Ambulance is also accepting donations for tornado victims. The Atmore-based company is teaming up with the Flomaton Volunteer Fire Department and is collecting items to send to help Alabamians in need. You can start dropping off items now at Atmore Ambulance (212 N. Main St., Atmore). Collections will continue through 1 p.m. today.

The Concerned Citizens of Atmore are also accepting donations at the Unity House on Main Street across from Hainje’s Saturday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. The group will accept donations through Tuesday, May 3.

Cornerstone Ministries is also taking donations for the victims of the tornadoes that hit Alabama on Wednesday. The church, located at 803 E. Church St., is looking for any supplies and non-perishable items. Church members will be delivering items to the Tuscaloosa area at the beginning of next week.

There will also be an outside drop box for monetary donations outside the church. Cash and check donations will be accepted. Make checks payable to Cornerstone Ministries.

If you have any questions please call Harold Harrison at 251-368-2982.