TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama and Notre Dame students, alumni and faculty are putting aside their rivalry for a few hours to make a difference in a Miami community.
The day before the big match up, representatives from the two universities will team up with nonprofit Roots in the City for an urban gardening project in Overtown, a city near downtown Miami, during the third Discover BCS National Championship Service Project.
Volunteers will be making plant beds, painting cinder blocks, potting plants, moving soil and whatever else is needed, said Wahnee Sherman, director of UA’s Community Service Center.
“Service is a great equalizer,” she said. “People can really put aside whatever their differences might be to do something positive for a community.”
The project was initially started by the college’s student government association in 2009 before the championship game between Alabama and Texas in Pasadena, Calif., where students from both campuses volunteered at a soup kitchen. After the 2011 season, when the Crimson Tide made its next championship game appearance, volunteers from Alabama and Louisiana State University worked to rejuvenate a community center that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
“We wanted to show that when Alabama comes to town, it’s not just about football. The university family can bring far more than that,” said 21-year-old UA senior Ryan Flamerich, a chemical engineering major.
For recent UA graduate 22-year-old Charlotte Brown, the service project has added a completely new element to the championship game experience. Having participated in both the Pasadena and New Orleans projects, she was quite eager to help in Miami. Not only was she able to get to know and bond with students from the other schools, she had an opportunity to learn about the community they were “taking over” for a few days.
“It’s an important element, showing gratification to the city where the championship game is held. We’re invading that city for a few days, so we should show a little respect and show that we care about more than just using their football arena,” Brown said. “We care about the people who live there and face any kind of hardship. It’s a great feeling knowing you have contributed something to that community that will be lasting and beneficial.”
The project will be from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 6; check-in and lunch will begin at noon. There will be a closing celebration with refreshments after the project is complete. Anyone interested in volunteering must pre-register online at www.volunteer.ua.edu/upprograms.cfm. Participants will need to provide their own transportation to the service location; more information will be provided about the exact location at a later date.
Alabama fans unable to attend the game will also have an opportunity to lend a hand in the spirit of the national championship service project. From 9 to 11 a.m. , Jan. 7, volunteers will work with Tuscaloosa Parks and Recreation at a local park and help with tornado cleanup with the Tuscaloosa Volunteer Reception Center. Check-in will be at 8:30 a.m. in the Ferguson Center Plaza on UA’s campus. Transportation will be provided to the service location and lunch will be available after the project.
“We certainly have a culture of football being very important at UA,” Sherman said. “This is just a great chance for us to link football with service so, while being a fan of the Crimson Tide, you can also be a fan of making a positive impact in your community.”