Lack of news coverage inspires help for tornado-ravaged Alabama

Area woman reports back with message that people are still suffering there

BY JANE MEGGITT Correspondent

Liz Blaso searches for family photographs in the remains of an 86-year-old woman’s home in Hackleburg, Ala. The homeowner survived the April 27 tornadoes that destroyed 90 percent of the structures in her town because she had been in the hospital. Bottom: The remains of a home that was destroyed by the tornadoes. Newspapers and television broadcasts constantly feature stories of devastation, but the news cycle moves on while victims continue to need help.

One young Upper Freehold Township woman was so moved by the plight of the Alabama tornado victims that she decided to go there to help, taking needed supplies.

Liz Blaso, 24, said she read about the tornado devastation in the news on April 27. Two days later the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middletown took place, and shortly after that, Osama bin Laden was killed, slowing news coverage of Alabama.

“The news stopped covering (Alabama) and there were still hundreds of people missing,” Blaso said.

Blaso went online to do research and found a website created by a person volunteering in Alabama who described the situation as horrific.

Blaso, who is a hairdresser at Trenz in Hair in Hamilton, started a donation drive at work to collect needed items for the tornado victims. She asked customers and local residents to donate nonperishable foods and ready-to-eat meals, gently used or new clothing, and baby supplies such as formula and diapers.

Blaso called the response “amazing” and said she had to rent a cargo van for all the items she collected during the threeweek donation drive.

She had never been toAlabama, but she set off with a friend Matt DeSabato, of Millstone Township, and drove 14 hours straight through. The first stop was Huntsville and after meeting up with a volunteer organization they traveled to different towns.

In Hackleburg, a town with 1,500 people, 90 percent of the structures were knocked downed by the tornado, according to Blaso. Even though the tornado had struck a month earlier, the scenes were shocking, she said. In Lockhart, she and DeSabato went door to door, and families came to their van and picked out things they needed.

On the second day, they volunteered at a food tent that the Hackleburg residents depend on for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food was delicious, she said, and the people expressed that they were happy to be alive.

“They have nothing left,” she said.

Blaso met an 86-year-old woman named Lola who survived because she was in the hospital when the tornadoes came through. The only thing left intact in her house was the bathroom vanity, she said.

Volunteers wanted to push debris to the curb, so Blaso helped Lola go through the wreckage and they managed to find some family photographs.

Blaso and DeSabato returned home on June 2. To assist the victims, Blaso recommends visiting www.KeepVolunteering.org or www.servealabama.gov.