Rec shifts from shelter to communication center

After an evening of sheltering displaced and frightened students following the tornado’s aftermath, the Rec Center has become an information center the University encourages students or parents to contact for answers about the status of loved ones.

Three phone numbers will connect a person to the Rec. Call 205-348-5140, 205-348-5164 or 205-348-3994 to reach the Rec for information.

George Brown, executive director of University recreation, had student volunteers at the Rec collect information about the nearly 80 students who stayed overnight for shelter.

Most of the students sheltered through the night have exited the Rec to look for friends or assess the damage to their homes, Brown said.

Staff from the Counseling Center is also present in the Rec to answer questions about basic needs, such as where to find food and shelter, and to address students’ psychological trauma, said Kerry Luke, staff psychologist of the Counseling Center who has been dispatched to the Rec.

The nature of students’ needs will become more apparent as more students are helped, she said.

“The devastation will become much more evident as we talk to more people,” she said. “I anticipate learning of some horrifying stories.”

The Counseling Center staff can be located at its on-campus office at 1101 Jackson Ave. near Farrah Hall, Lakeside Dining Hall and the Rec Center or contacted at 205-348-3863 or 205-348-9068. Staff can visit students where they currently are, whether on or off campus, if need be.

“A lot of this has been planned on the fly,” said Lee Keyes, executive director of the Counseling Center. “We’re still assessing the need and demand, and that can take a little while to become clear, but based on other similar experiences, I would expect there to be some primary and secondary trauma. There’s a wide range of possibilities.”

Establishing contact with students in need takes top priority, he said.

“The main thing is to get people in as officially and quickly as possible so we can begin processing and debriefing them or we can go to them,” he said.

For now, the University intends to maintain the Rec as a shelter for displaced students who may lack a means of transportation to someplace else, said Alicia Browne, associate director for information and communication for housing and residential communities.

“If students have an opportunity to get to their home, that may be the best decision,” she said. “But we’re prepared for them to stay here.”

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