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GACTA helps storm victims

Members of the Greenville Area Community Tennis Association involved in a recent day of service include, front row from left to right, University of Alabama Tennis Team volunteers Alice Tunoru and Tiffany Welcher. Middle row from left to right, Madison Anne Gaston, Lindsey Spear, Hannah Dillard, Sarah Elizabeth Owens, Taylor Autrey, Marion Lightfoot, Jennifer Grace Arnold. Back row from left to right, Brett Taylor, Brandon Matthews, Matt Langford, Casey Tesmer, Cody Tesmer, Curt Davis. (Submitted Photo)

A group of area youth and parents involved with the Greenville Area Community Tennis Association (GACTA) traveled to Tuscaloosa Monday. Their goal: to share the sport they love and help young tornado survivors and their families in one action-packed day.

Julie Autrey, vice president of GACTA, helped pilot more than a dozen young GACTA members to a morning tennis clinic conducted by the Tuscaloosa Tennis Association (TTA).

“There were 50 to 60 kids involved in the clinic, and the TTA folks were thrilled to have our members serve as volunteers,” said Autrey.

Following the clinic, the Greenville group took a complete tour of the path of the devastating April tornado.

“You have no real idea of just how bad it is until you see it firsthand. It’s an overwhelming sight and pictures do not do it justice,” Autrey said. “You can see places that have been bulldozed clear, but there are still homes with trees in the middle of them weeks after the storms. Years of work lie ahead and it was important for our kids to see the impact and recognize the need to help these families.”

After a tour of the UA campus and lunch, the GACTA group spent the afternoon volunteering with members of Woodland Park Baptist Church and Project Blessing, a program that assists tornado survivors in recovering from the storm.

Autrey, her daughter Taylor and Lindsey Spear returned to Tuscaloosa to do additional volunteer work on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“We are distributing boxes of tennis items to five of the young people who participated in the clinic and who lost everything in the tornado,” Autrey said.

The boxes contain everything the students would need to get started in tennis, from rackets and balls to sweat bands and sports drinks, she explained.

“We felt like we should use our love for tennis to help these children who had lost all their belongings, with a sport that will give them fun this summer and the rest of their life,” Autrey said.

And GACTA continues to raise funds for Tuscaloosa.

“Checks are still coming in and as soon as a T-shirt signed by Roger Federer arrives, we will be raffling that off,” Autrey said. “All funds we raise go directly to help the families rebuild through Project Blessing and the children sponsored by the TTA Clinic.”

Autrey said GACTA members would be out selling raffle tickets for the shirt soon. Proceeds from the raffle will be presented in a check for a special Tuscaloosa family in the process of rebuilding.