Storms show the best, worst of people

Published 10:54 am Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The stark images of devastation and destruction in north and central Alabama caused by the storm system dubbed “April’s Fury” will be imprinted on our minds for a long time to come.

And yet, this tragic event brought out the best in many of us. Alabamians proved to be good Samaritans. A number of those who donated their time, labor, money and goods to help in the recovery of the cities and towns torn apart by the tornadoes came from right here in Butler County.

Among the many:

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Liberty’s Volunteer Fire Department set up a center collecting blankets, pillows, canned-goods and cash donations to aid the survivors. W.O. Parmer Elementary School started a school supply drive while Fort Dale Academy began collecting a variety of food items, baby needs and school supplies. Seniors from FDA also spent a day aiding in the cleanup.

Football players and coaches at Georgiana School traveled to Berry to help in the recovery efforts, earning the thanks and praise of Berry High’s football coach.

Congregations at First United Methodist Church and Southside Baptist Church of Greenville mounted campaigns to collect food, bottled water and basic supplies to deliver to the hardest-hit areas. The National Mobile Home Association, working with Paradise Homes of Greenville and Ronnie Grady, donated bottles of water for the survivors.

The list goes on and on — certainly more people and organizations than named above, including those who worked behind the scenes or in quiet anonymity.

They each deserve praise.

Sadly, these types of tragedies also bring out the worst in people. Looters, scam artists pretending to be FEMA inspectors, and unscrupulous contractors have all been trying to take advantage of storm survivors.

Noel Barnes, the consumer protection chief for the Alabama attorney general’s office says the speed of those seeking to prey on survivors has been unusually quick.

“We have been receiving a surprising amount of calls,” Barnes said. “We are not going to allow people to further victimize our citizens.”

Those who want to further assist storm survivors with monetary donations are encouraged to choose well-known and established organizations such as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Save the Children, requesting the funds be earmarked for the tornado disaster survivors.

Barnes recommends caution for those giving and receiving help. “If you didn’t call somebody, don’t deal with people knocking at your door. People need to know who they are dealing with.”

While we encourage the use of common sense and a healthy amount of caution, we also hope the potential of fraudulent activity won’t discourage those who might otherwise be inclined to give.