The group has now partnered with with Temporary Emergency Services (TES) — a Tuscaloosa-based, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping individuals and families in crisis situations.
“It's going to take TES and help them to become the agency to bridge the gap between the time of the disaster and the time it takes for the Red Cross and FEMA to get into place,” said Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa founder and Walker County native Warren Tidwell. “During those first dew days of a disaster, this service will allow people to mobilize, get help, get set up and work in a way that has never worked in disaster relief before. It's going to help save lives and ease suffering.”
The growth of the group’s standing has been startling in its exposure and outreach by Americans wanting to help. Since the Toomer's for Tuscaloosa Facebook page was started, there have been over 20 million hits to the page as well as over 90,000 individual posts and millions of retweets on Twitter. Relief supplies have streamed into the Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa distribution center from all over the nation, with drop-off sites and warehouses throughout the southeast.
“I'm absolutely privledged to be a part of it,” Tidwell said. “I'm working with some wonderful people who are doing amazing things. If it weren't for the people out there pouring their hearts and souls into this and working so hard to get the relief supplies to the people who need it, we couldn't do what we're doing. Average Americans — homemakers, teachers, construction workers — they're powering this movement. We have calls from people who want to be an official warehouse for us — telling us that they have taken in donations and sorted them and are ready to ship them out to our effected areas.”
Tidwell relayed a story of the Flat Rock community in DeKalb County — an isolated area of 3,000 residents nearly 15 miles away from the nearest gas station or grocery store. The area had run very low on gas and food and officials in the community began to fear the few supplies left to sustain the area were going to run out.
Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa Georgia coordinator Laney Nichols and Northeast Alabama coordinator Tiffany Watkins worked together to get relief supplies sent to Flat Rock and on Thursday morning, three trailers of supplies were on route to the tiny community that has become the focal point for relief efforts in the Pisgah and Henagar areas. Also arriving was a donated dehumidifier that will help out with water production and solar panels that will enable residents to charge devices like cell phones and small appliances.
Tidwell commended the efforts of Nichols and Watkins in establishing the relief for Flat Rock, as well as the State of Georgia and its citizens who have become a hallmark in the relief efforts. He also thanks the work of Krissalyn Riley, the daughter of former Gov. Bob Riley, who has been assisting his organization.
“Alabamians need to really know what Georgians are doing for them right now,” Tidwell said. “They are organizing in a way that few people would ever be thought possible. The people out there like Laney, Tiffany, Krissalyn and those who are working day and night to get these supplies out to the people in need are the heroes in this, as are the people giving donations and helping with the relief.”
Donations have also been picked from Walker County to be distributed to disaster areas by the organization. Tidwell said his work for his home county will continue into the future as long as the need is present and eventually plans to come home to assist with rebuilding projects.
“I'm just a Walker County boy, out trying to do what I can to help people,” Tidwell said. “We are not going to stop until my home in Walker County has been rebuilt and our state is rebuilt.”
Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa now has an official website for news and information at www.toomersfortuscaloosa.com.