The Tuscaloosa Area Volunteer Reception Center (VRC) can be one of the most valuable resources available to our community when experiencing a major disaster. Throughout the nation, disaster professionals recognize and acknowledge the value of an organization that can quickly mobilize and deploy large numbers of volunteers to meet a broad array of community needs. Due to storms and disasters, counties in Alabama have seen the benefit of VRCs. Not all disasters that hit Tuscaloosa County are tornados, though they tend to be the most common that affect people statewide. The VRC could also respond to other disaster types.
It is important to remember that it may not be activated for every “disaster” as some tornadoes, flooding, or other events may not affect a large number of people or may not draw enough volunteers to justify the opening of the VRC. Places damaged in a disaster have seen local, statewide, and national groups and individual volunteers arrive in their community to try and help their fellow man. When these groups and individuals arrive to an area without an organized location to report to, they can cause a “disaster within the disaster” by randomly showing up in damaged places around the disaster area. Through the concept of the VRC, city and county Governments can bring some order to an already chaotic time.
The most recent examples of the VRC being opened are after the April 27, 2011 tornado and Tropical Storm Claudette on June 19, 2021, which caused flooding in the City of Northport.
We encourage all volunteers, individuals, and groups to register with the local VRC if one becomes active. To check to see if Tuscaloosa County's VRC is active, look to Tuscaloosa County EMA's social media pages, local news coverage, and the affected municipality for updates on the VRC, such as hours of operation and current needs.
Donations are appreciated, but the VRC it is not the correct location to take them. Though the VRC may accept a few cases of bottled water, bottles of sunscreen, a few tools, or other items (depending on space), the majority of donations will need to be sent to a donations gathering point or a designated community organization that can match the items with the families most in need.
During small events, donations may be routed through local non-profits such as Temporary Emergency Services (TES), Wings of Grace, and several others. If a large event occurs, in combination with the non-profit agencies listed above, a donation warehouse will be established for the sorting of goods before they are distributed.