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Nursing Professors Volunteer to Give Back in Tornado Relief Efforts

UA Little Rock nursing faculty Karen Bristow and Joanna Hall and her son Bodie volunteer at the Family Assistance Center.
UA Little Rock nursing faculty Karen Bristow and Joanna Hall and her son Bodie volunteer at the Family Assistance Center.

Ever since the EF3 tornado struck central Arkansas on March 31, countless people have stepped up to volunteer and give back to those in need.

Several University of Arkansas at Little Rock nursing professors have been volunteering at Little Rock’s Family Assistance Center and have described what it’s been like to help people through tornado relief efforts.

The Family Assistance Center, located at 315 N. Shackelford Road, is a partnership with Engage Arkansas, Arkansas Baptist Disaster Relief, the Salvation Army, Wolfe Street Foundation, Center for Youth and Families, Immanuel Baptist Church, Goodwill Industries, and the United Way.

“I don’t think I’ve seen the entire community come together like this since 9/11,” Joanna Hall, assistant professor of nursing and director of simulation, said while describing the hundreds of volunteers she worked with at the Family Assistance Center since April 4.

Hall even brought her 5-year-old son Bodie to volunteer at the Family Assistance Center. While she was hesitant at first to bring her son, Hall said many parents have brought their children to volunteer and that the fellow volunteers embraced Bodie as one of their own.

Joanna Hall's son Bodie  delivers donations to families at the Family Assistance Center.
Joanna Hall’s son Bodie delivers donations to families at the Family Assistance Center.

“I was thinking a 5-year-old would be in the way, but they welcomed him with open arms,” Hall said. “They dubbed him the official ‘water boy’ since he would walk up to cars in the drive-thru line and hand them bottles of water. Bodie absolutely loved it. He was obsessed with using the pushcarts, so the volunteers made sure he helped with any job that required one. He was out there learning some valuable life lessons all while working his sweet little 5-year-old magic.”

The School of Nursing has come together to help their students impacted by the tornado. Faculty have been donating money, bought groceries and other necessities, and donated scrubs, shoes and medical equipment that students need to complete their classes and clinicals.

SarahBeth Phillips, assistant professor of nursing, has been volunteering at the Family Assistance Center while staying in close contact with the three nursing students and one adjunct instructor who were directly impacted by the tornado.

“I’ve been making sure that I am talking one-on-one with the students who have been affected,” Phillips said. “Our faculty have been so generous in donating supplies and getting donations together for the students. We are several weeks removed from the tornado, but there is still so much that needs to be done. Sometimes they just need a hug or someone to sit down and talk to.”

Karen Bristow, assistant professor of nursing, and her husband found themselves spending the weekend following the tornado in their daughter’s Sherwood neighborhood helping to clean up and using their chainsaw to cut downed trees.

“Luckily, my daughter had only minor damage to her house. They had one big tree in the backyard that fell on the fence and some damage to the roof, but some of their neighbors had houses with no roofs,” Bristow said. “We helped these neighbors with their debris. It was shocking to see all of that. The neighborhood was a mess.”

Bristow has also been volunteering at the Family Assistance Center, where, among many things, they collect donations, organize them into individual packets for families, and give them to families as they drive through.

“It’s been a humbling experience because I have everything I need and so many people don’t,” Bristow said. “It’s worth it to see the smiles on people’s faces after you give them their supplies and you smile at them. I’m glad to be a part of a community of giving back.”

Phillips encouraged people to continue to volunteer, make donations, and check in on those affected by the tornado.

“One of my students said she goes through the day and when she lays down at night, she misses her bed and her home,” Phillips said. “The weight of everything – trying to find a new home is on her and her husband’s shoulders while she is going through this hard program to try to become a nurse. Don’t forget that there is still a need out there. Some people haven’t been able to go into their homes yet, and some people have nothing. We don’t want people to forget about it.”