Tigers Try To Give Back In Face Of Disaster

Auburn coach Gene Chizik, athletic director Jay Jacobs, assistant coaches from several sports and many players helped in tornado disaster relief on Friday.

Auburn, Ala.--Friday was supposed to be a day of celebration for the Auburn football Tigers as they were going to the White House to meet the President after winning the BCS National Championship. Instead coach Gene Chizik, athletic director Jay Jacobs, Associate Women's Basketball Coach Kerry Cremeans, other assistant coaches, and football players spent the day in Pleasant Grove and Cullman, volunteering their time in the cleanup efforts after Tuesday's deadly weather that rolled through the state.

They volunteered at Pleasant Grove First Baptist Church and at Bethel Baptist Church. Delivered clothes and over 500 cases of Gatorade and bottled water to the shelter set up at Bethel Baptist. Cleaned up debris outside and inside First Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove, which received substantial damage.

"I think it's important that we all bond together in circumstances like this," Chizik said. "This is a tragedy. We weren't put on this earth to be served, but to serve. So it's important for us to come out to give back to communities in need and certainly this community is in need.

"It was devastating. I don't even think you can accurately describe it to somebody the enormity, you have to see it. To see families displaced, lives lost, this is absolutely tragic. We're just trying to give back.

"Today we tried to give back any way we could. We cleaned up some churches, and tried to go around to some different houses and talk to people who lost loved ones, lost houses and cars, to give words of encouragement is what we wanted to do today. Our message today was hope."

Also Coach Chizik and several of the players then walked along Seventh Avenue in Pleasant Grove, one of the hardest hit areas in the state, where numerous homes stood in ruins. Coach Chizik and the players visited with families who had lost everything and offered words of encouragement.

They also went to Cullman where they stopped at the Cullman Civic Center which served as their base of operations where they were distributing food and providing shelter. After the Cullman Civic Center, the group went to a residential area that was hit really hard, divided up into groups and went to homes to help, which included removing trees from cars, clearing debris and moving furniture out of a house.

Among the players helping in the effort were Trovon Reed and Jeffrey Whitaker. Two players who grew up outside the state, both said they felt like it was their duty to go and help as much as they could.

"It was a disaster," Reed said. "We saw so many folks without their homes. I experienced something like this before in the New Orleans area I experienced Katrina. Katrina was bad, we had water, but these people here are struggling and don't even have water. From house to house, I saw a whole block that was gone. Being out here helping is a big thing."

Whitaker echoed those sentiments saying he just tried to give people some hope in a tough time.

"We saw houses tore up. It is hard to describe, it is like a third world country.," he said. "(I told them) just to say to keep the faith, keep hope. We believe in a God and we're going to keep praying for them. We're trying to help them to keep their confidence up and that we're praying for them."

Chizik said it was just important for Auburn to help in any way possible on Friday as Pleasant Grove, Cullman, and the rest of the state try to pick up the pieces and move forward.

"Trying to give them a message of hope, to make it through these trying times, you've really got to try to stay encouraged and they were great," Chizik said. "They all knew they were blessed to still be here on this earth. I think it really makes you look back and understand you can't take things for granted like every day that you get up."

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