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Archive for Sunday, May 15, 2011

KU students raising money to go help tornado-ravaged Alabama

May 15, 2011

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How to help

• To donate money to help with Red Cross efforts, visit redcross.org. You can specify that the donation go to southeast tornado relief. You can also contact the Douglas County chapter of the American Red Cross at 843-3550.

• To donate to Rock Chalk and Roll Tide, visit rockchalkandrolltide.wordpress.com. Click on the “How Can I Help?” link. There, you can find instructions to make a donation through PayPal, the mail, in person or by pickup.

Rick Farrier sat at home and watched news reports of the destruction that Hurricane Katrina caused in 2005.

He knew he couldn’t stay at home. He had to go help. That sparked years of volunteering for the Red Cross. Now Farrier, a Eudora resident, has traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to help distribute supplies to people displaced by a traumatizing tornado April 27.

Farrier isn’t the only one from the area lending a hand. A group of 13 Kansas University atmospheric sciences students are traveling to Tuscaloosa next week to help with debris removal.

Farrier, 56, is a retired disabled U.S. Army veteran who also volunteered in the aftermath of hurricanes Wilma and Rita. He said it was an excellent use of his free time.

“I recommend anyone who has any time at all. It'll change your life,” Farrier said. “It really made me want to do it more and more.”

Farrier arrived in Alabama on May 4 and immediately started distributing donated supplies to people displaced from the storm. He is assigned to a new task each day, and most are requests from the community. Piles of rubble still litter the streets, and many people no longer have houses to go home to.

“The people can’t thank you enough. People break down and cry because they don’t have anything,” Farrier said.

Adam Smith, who’s helping organize the students’ trip to Tuscaloosa, said the students felt an instant need to help those affected by the storms they so often study in school and chase. He said the group, named Rock Chalk and Roll Tide, felt the storm held a different meaning because they knew of all its weather traits.

“You can’t watch these things and chase storms and not feel something for these people who lost everything,” Smith said.

Originally the group planned to do only a fundraiser, but later decided to drive to Alabama to help. On the list of required equipment: chainsaws. The group, which will not include Smith, will help clear streets and work on debris removal.

The students will stay with host families whose homes were not damaged, but they must raise $2,000 to cover travel expenses. They’d like to raise even more to give a donation, though.

Smith said it’s important for college students to understand the damage the storm did. Tuscaloosa is home to the University of Alabama, a school similar in size to KU.

“Imagine if it went through Lawrence. What would we be experiencing right now?” he said. “Imagine what that would do to our student body.”

Farrier said it was important to help each other, and he recalled a tornado that cut a wide swath through Topeka on June 8, 1966. Damage estimates from that monster tornado hit $100 million, making it at that time the costliest tornado in U.S. history.

“It could happen to you tomorrow. You never know. Your house could be wiped out tomorrow,” he said.

But none of the help he’s giving would be possible without donations.

“Keep things coming in for the people who need them,” he said.뷳

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