Disaster relief fund, aid ready for students


President Bill Cale, UNA student Sarah Holmes and Provost John Thornell celebrate last summer when Holmes was awarded a Caring for the Pride scholarship after last year’s April 27 tornadoes destroyed her family’s home.

In August of 2011, UNA secured a $15,000 grant through the Disaster Relief Fund for Postsecondary Education Students. The funding was dispersed to approximately 20 UNA students who were affected by the April 27 tornado outbreak across north Alabama last year.

The funding was obtained through a grant from USA Funds, a student loan company that wanted to give to students who were greatly impacted by the storms, said Student Financial Services Director Ben Baker.

“Insurance is not going to cover everything,” Baker said. “So we did give away the entire $15,000 to the 20 students.”

The money was a one-time gift from USA Funds and the entire sum was given to students in the fall, Baker said.

“We hope that (the Caring for the Pride fund) will be an ongoing thing,” said University Spokesman Josh Woods. “There are still some funds (in the account).”

The money that was given to students last fall was from USA Funds, and donors donated separate money, said Vice President for Advancement Alan Medders.

It will become an emergency fund and will never go away, he said.

There has been $6,935 donated to the fund from outside donors, according to the UNA website, and Medders said there have been no changes in that number in some time.

“We have not seen any new money come in since this last round of tornadoes came through,” Medders said.

Medders said to his knowledge no students were affected by the recent storms that hit north Alabama in recent weeks.

The university hopes to never see storms that impacted the UNA community like last year’s storms did, Woods said.

“We need to be sure that we are prepared as a university at any time,” Woods said.

Woods said the university has positioned itself in a way that, if there was a need, students could and would be provided with resources and assistance from the university.

“As an educational institution, we don’t want to have a good student have their education taken away from them because of a situation like that,” Woods said.

In the future, the university is looking at expanding and continuing to offer disaster relief to students, Woods said.

“While the April events were tragic, the Caring for the Pride program got a lot of attention, which was a good thing in enabling us to help more students,” Woods said. “We just need for people to be aware that this is one good place to give (their contributions).”

Woods said college students’ education is invaluable.

“The loss of a college education is a very serious, tragic loss, and we just want to be able to help out,” he said.

In addition to the funding the university provided to the 20 students last fall, Woods said UNA also waived certain fees for students who were impacted by the storms. He said the university arranged things to make it easier for students who were greatly affected by the tragic events.

“The idea behind Caring for the Pride (was that) it was not as much an overall fund as much as an overall effort,” Woods said.