From The Tribune staff reports
PINSON — The old saying goes, “Never forget where you came from.” For two young women who grew up in the Rusk Mobile Home Park, it is apparent they have not forgotten the community that built them. Now, they are helping the community rebuild after a tornado destroyed homes in the park.
Kasey Cupido, a senior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, came back to the park to give back. Cupido is majoring in criminal justice and minoring in accounting, but on Wednesday, Jan. 27, she put her studies on hold to count donations.
“Right now, we have a lot of food so that’s great. People are getting fed,” said Cupido. “We have clothing items but at this point, a lot of things that we need are a lot of working hands and materials to rebuild.”
With her clipboard in Hand, Cupido coordinated efforts to distribute goods as donations poured in.
“It’s been very great to see the community come together and have all kinds of support from people who don’t even live here,” Cupido added. “We are very fortunate in that way.”
Cupido’s family’s home was not damaged and for that, she said they are blessed. But their neighbors were not so lucky. When the tornado tore through the park on Monday, Jan. 25, it left 54 adults and 15 children without a place to stay. The survivors have been gathering in the middle of the park to eat while they aren’t working on picking up the pieces to their homes. New portable bathrooms were brought in and tents set up to store donations.
The UAB chapter of Sigma Lambda Gamma, a Latina-based multicultural sorority in which Cupido is a member, responded to the disaster to try and help.
“Some families may not be able to rebuild so we are going to work with them and try to find them housing,” Cupido continued.
Warm meals were brought in Wednesday by Pinson Valley High School’s Career Technical Department and Gardendale High School. The group delivered about 70 meals to the mobile home park after delivering to Fultondale earlier in the day.
Angela Hernandez, a Pinson Valley High School junior, grew up in the neighborhood. She said she was thankful to see her school pitching in to help her family.
“I feel very happy,” said Hernandez. “I am really excited that they actually came and helped out.”
Although Hernandez no longer lives in the community, her aunt does. She said much of her growing up happened on the same grounds that have been shattered by the storm. As a child, she ran around the trees that have been uprooted and knocked on doors that are now gone.
In fact, Hernandez, who is volunteering her time to organize donations, said her very desire to help others, in a way grew from the soil in Rusk Mobile Home Park.
“My aunt who lives here, I remember she took me to the church that taught me about community service,” said Hernandez. “We even once came out here and helped people out, cleaning around and making food and everything, just to help.”
As Hernandez gets older she hasn’t forgotten how good it made her feel to do something for her neighbors.
“I’m really happy to be here and helping people,” Hernandez continued. “I just like helping communities out. My parents also teach me to help people out because whenever you need people they are going to be there for you, too.”
Other items brought in from donations included bottled water, fruit, canned goods, meat, toiletries, socks and dog food. The one thing people in the community all have is love and positivity, said Cupido.
“A lot of these people didn’t have much before but I think that what they did have was positivity and that’s what’s helped them get through this,” Cupido said. “We need to share that, especially in these times.”