"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it for someone else" -Ben Franklin

On April 27th, the community of Tuscaloosa, Alabama was changed forever. An EF-4 tornado more than a mile wide ripped through the center of their town taking out over 5,000 homes and buildings, leaving over 7,000 people unemployed, and put 1,500 people in the hospital. In a matter of 6 minutes, 6 miles of Tuscaloosa were destroyed. 

I arrived in Tuscaloosa on December 17th with a team of 22 Greek students from all over the country and our two leaders from the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values for a week of service. While in Tuscaloosa, we were immersed in the culture of the city and served in many different ways. From cleaning up debris and cutting down trees with the Tuscaloosa Area Volunteer Reception Center to filing paperwork and folding clothes for the Temporary Emergency Services, we were able to see just how much help the area still needed.

Community service was instilled as one of my core values at an early age. My family didn't have much but we had what we needed and we made the most of what we had; however, around the holiday season, we always found the money and time to participate in Christmas Angel programs where we would buy gifts for families who couldn't afford them. As a middle schooler, I dedicated my Wednesday nights to the AWANA program at my church and lead a table of 10 carefree and fun-loving toddlers in memorizing their Bible verses, handing out snacks, and other activities. In high school I volunteered for the Canal Fulton Historical Society, helping them to clean the historic houses and museums and volunteered within the city wherever help was needed. Now in college, I give much of my time to volunteering and advocating for Habitat For Humanity.

I do not volunteer because I feel the need to prove I'm a good person or need the recognition; I serve because it allows for the burden of another human being to be lifted from their shoulders, it gives that person hope that there is good in this world and they're not alone. 

After a very rough semester, this trip was so refreshing. It reignited my hope in people, my love of forming relationships, and my passion for serving others. It reminded me that I am passionate; I am happy; and I am a leader. I am reminded to never take anything for granted. I am so thankful that I was able to serve the Tuscaloosa area as it was an incredible experience and I am so blessed to have been able to help.

After this week in Tuscaloosa, I believe this will be my most thankful and blessed Christmas yet. 

With Love,

The sight of the inside of this apartment brought tears to my eyes. A little girl's drawings and colored pictures were left taped to the wall with everything in ruins. This really gave me a reality check.

"There are two kinds of gratitude: the sudden kind we feel for what we receive and the larger kind for what we give." 
- Edward Arlington Robinson -

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