Recent Graduate Aids with Disaster Relief Efforts in Tuscaloosa

June 01, 2011

Lindsay Clark (Class of 2011)

Lindsay Clark (Class of 2011) sorts clothes donated for recent hurricane victims at a warehouse in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

After being handed a diploma, many Rollins graduates start their first full-time job, wait for graduate school to start or frantically search for employment. Instead of following the normal pursuits, only two weeks after graduation, Lindsay Clark (Class of 2011) continued to embrace Rollins’ mission when she hopped in her car and drove five hours to help with the relief efforts in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

On April 27, 2011, a series of thunderstorms, strong winds, and tornadoes slammed into four Southern states. Tuscaloosa was flattened by an estimated mile-wide tornado. After seeing the benefit concert for the Tuscaloosa Tornado on CMT, Clark was so “taken back by the stories shared and painful images shown that I wanted to do something to help.”

After she arrived in Tuscaloosa, she went to the Volunteer Reception Center, turned in paper work she had printed off of, and was given two maps with directions toward a warehouse, where she spent six days sorting donations.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama
In one of the affected areas Clark helped clean up, debris covered most of the ground.

While she enjoyed her time at the warehouse, she didn’t want to leave town without engaging in some hands-on work. Alone and uncertain of what she would be doing, Clark stepped out of her comfort zone when she was sent to remove debris in the most affected areas. From torn Mother’s Day cards to broken dolls, every object carried countless memories. She was not simply raking trash; she was throwing out entire lives. “No matter how many pictures you see or how many times you drive through the affected areas,” Clark said, “Nothing compares to the emotion you feel when you are standing on a slab of concrete and raking up broken plates and personal items that once were a part of someone's life. The day's experience was difficult, not because it was physically exhausting in the intense heat, but because people's homes were destroyed and reduced to a pile of rubble.”

The experience was physically and emotionally difficult, but there were good moments as well. One of Clark’s favorite moments was when she was eating lunch in the warehouse. A few of the volunteers asked her what organization she was volunteering with or whether she went to school in the area. They were shocked to learn that she was simply there to help and give back. “It made me smile and realize I was doing something unique and how lucky I am to be able to help.”

Rollins instilled this inner-drive in Clark to help those in need. During her junior year, she worked as a student coordinator for Join Us in Making Progress (J.U.M.P.), presented at the national IMPACT Conference, and participated in the Alternative Spring Break program in Washington, D.C. Through all of her time with the Office of Community Engagement, she learned to constantly ask herself, “If not me, then who?”

Clark is not sure whether she would have had the initiative to drive on her own to a strange location to simply help without the passion and direction she developed while at Rollins. “[Director of Community Engagement] Micki Meyer once shared the quote ‘Lead with empathy and a passion for the human spirit,’” said Clark. “This experience is the epitome of that advice. I met volunteers from Oregon, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi and locals from Tuscaloosa, all there as a testimony for the human spirit and how such a tragedy can shake a community but then unite people in a common cause.”

To help Tuscaloosa, go to to give a monetary donation or to learn how to volunteer.

By Annamarie Carlson (Class of 2014)

Office of Public Relations & Community Affairs
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