Saban, Community Service Center address student volunteers
Word of mouth and social media led about 300 volunteers, including Alabama head football coach Nick Saban, to the Ferguson Plaza at 10 a.m. Thursday, despite the fact that no official University meeting was actually planned.
Wahnee Sherman, director of the Community Service Center, said students should only listen to official University of Alabama announcements to avoid misinformation like the announcement about the meeting. Sherman took control of the meeting she said she didn’t know existed until she pulled into the parking lot.
“I don’t know how the word got out that we were having this meeting at 10 o’clock,” Sherman announced to the group around 10:25 a.m. Sherman told students to gather at the official city of Tuscaloosa volunteer location, St. Mathias Church on Skyland Boulevard.
University Relations also sent out an email stating that members of the University community interested in volunteering need to go to St. Mathias at noon Thursday.
Student volunteers said the University Recreation Center had directed them to the Ferguson Center. Saban was among the volunteers directed to the meeting at 10 from the Rec center.
“Nick Saban just came by to offer his help and see if we needed anything,” said Melissa Kish, assistant director of informal recreation and special events at the Recreation Center. She said she directed Saban to the Ferguson Center.
Saban addressed the crowd of students when he arrived, after students immediately and almost instinctively gathered around him as though he were in charge of the meeting. A few minutes later, a Community Service Center volunteer introduced the coach to the crowd.
“I think that everybody needs to understand that your support and your presence to help all those in need...what you’re doing is really appreciated,” Saban said, standing on the flowerbed in the plaza to address the students.
“Sometimes, just the idea that you’re there, your presence and and your support to help someone is very much appreciated encouragement,” he said. “I want you to know that I appreciate what you’re doing.”
Saban said he has been driving around all morning, giving out drinks to people in need. He pointed to the people at the Red Cross center and displaced students as those who need help.
“I think it’s really important for [Saban] to be here,” said Alex Clark, one of the students who arrived at 10 a.m. ready to volunteer. “He’s such an inspirational person for Tuscaloosa—to see him out, helping people, willing to let everyone know we’re going to get through this,” she said.
“Being a part of the team is not always just being there on Saturday," Saban said. "Being a part of the University of Alabama team is to help people when they need it and there’s a lot of people out there who need it,” Saban said.
Saban told students to be patient and understand that communication is a problem at all levels.
“I know what you’re trying to do is appreciated, so Roll Tide and thanks for your help,” he said.