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“Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa” organizer overwhelmed by support

The logo for Toomer's For Tuscaloosa. The design was submitted by a "friend" of the group's Facebook page just hours after the group was created.

Playing off the name of Tide For Toomer’s, a grassroots charity formed by Alabama fans to raise money for the efforts to save the poisoned Toomer’s Oaks, a Facebook group calling itself “Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa” is hoping to return the goodwill gesture.

Just hours after a catastrophic tornado plowed through Tuscaloosa, the page had logged more than 8,000 “likes” most of those earned by midnight; the page was created at 8 p.m.

Group organizer and Auburn fan Warren Tidwell said he’s overwhelmed by the response.

“I’m amazed by the support.,” said Tidwell, 32, the manager of an Opelika auto service center. “I’d hoped for an outpouring of support, but I don’t if I really truly thought it’d be like this.”

Tidwell, who lives in Auburn, hopes to take a group of volunteers to Tuscaloosa Saturday to aid in cleanup efforts, though he calls the situation “fluid.”

“I’m hoping to have the chance to get plugged in somewhere with the goal being to have something planned, have a place for people to meet in town (Tuscaloosa).”

Tidwell has first hand experience in disaster relief; he assisted in recovery efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina and even designed and implemented a web-based severe weather alert system for residents in an unincorporated community in Mississippi.

He also is helping coordinate donations towards cleanup and recovery efforts in Tuscaloosa.

“The purpose of the group at first wasn’t going to be donations, but the outpouring has been so strong, we’re talking with Charter Bank and working on a way for people to be able to donate later today,” he said. “I want it to go through a bank and be fully transparent.”

But the donations will also likely help areas other than Tuscaloosa; after seeing reports of further devastation, Tidwell realized the need to expand the group’s scope.

“My understanding is that Dadeville got hit last night  and I don’t want the little communities to feel like they’re being left out,” he said. “I mean, Tuscaloosa got hammered, but right now I’d like this just to be a communication point for people to organize all over the state. When something like this happens, you have this energy. People really want to do something, but they don’t know what to do. I hope this can be a vehicle to go through.”

He also hopes his motives won’t be misconstrued.

“A lot of people will probably ridicule this, but the last thing I want is for people to think that we’re comparing what happened in Tuscaloosa to some yahoo poisoning some trees,” Tidwell said. “But what some Alabama fans did after the Toomer’s situation was classy, and I was really touched by it and I hope this might show the rest of the nation that we’re not a bunch of Harvey Updykes down here, that the good of both fan bases far outweighs the lunatic fringe. When times are hard and things go bad, football goes out the window and we can band together and help each other out.”

“I don’t want this to be about me,” Tidwell said. “I’m just trying to help.”

As of 7 a.m. Thursday morning, he’s got a good start.

“Last night I was watching the news and they were talking about it on the news within two hours so I truly understand them meaning of ‘viral’ now,” he said. “Oh man, it’s up over 14,000 now. If we can just harness this…”

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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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