One of the best things about ESA is the sense of connection that members get to establish as they grow in the organization. Personal relationships develop at ESA functions, philanthropic events, on-campus, online, last and grow over the years. ESA friends share the best and the worst of times with one another, providing support without question. They also work with a network of support that brings the outside world to them in time of great catastrophe.
For example, when Hurricane struck the Gulf Coast a few years ago, ESA’s Disaster Fund reacted quickly and without the red tape of government agencies. It provided direct grants to ESA members in the stricken communities across the South. Individual members received checks to give them a helping hand in no time, with checks being written, forwarded and received within a matter of days.
Also, members in these communities, many of whom were struggling themselves, set out to assist others in their community, receiving and sharing goods sent to them by other ESA members across the country. The outpouring of concern and support was breathtaking.
Now, in the aftermath of another great catastrophe involving the record setting tornadoes that swept across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and beyond, there are other stories that epitomize the links of friendship and service that makes our ESA connection so dear.
This story begins over twenty years ago, when Betty Thompson, a remarkable active member of the Alabama State Council decided to help a number of students at Stillman College organize a collegiate chapter of ESA. Both Betty and the campus of Stillman resided in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which permitted Betty to actively work with the founding students and their chapter.
Today, both Betty and the Stillman Chapter share their interest in ESA and reside in Tuscaloosa; however, some things have changed. Over the years, new advisors and new students served and graduated from the Stillman Chapter. While Betty still maintained her very active status within ESA, she had less direct contact with the students as the campus chapter became more independent. Everyone did well, pursuing the ESA interests that pertained to their circumstances as times changed and years went by.
Then, on an imaginably horrific day in Tuscaloosa, filled with tornadoes, flying objects, fallen trees, and human misery, things changed for both Betty and for the current student members of the Stillman Chapter. As the winds calmed and people tried to get in touch with one another, the students contacted Headquarters via facebook.com, trying to let everyone know that while they were shocked and stunned, they were OK and ready to beginning to volunteer to help others. Even while the phone lines and power were out, Facebook and cell phones carried the message. The students thus came to learn that the founder of their chapter, someone who’s name they knew, but hadn’t seen in their time on campus, was nearby, still living in Tuscaloosa.
“Would you check on Betty and our other Tuscaloosa members” was the reply from Tracy Swanson at Headquarters, and the answer was an immediate “Yes”. So off the students went, to help others and to see about ESA’s local community members. Fortunately, the news that came back to Headquarters was that generally our members were all right. However, the students found that two large trees had fallen on Betty’s house.
Pictures that appear here tell the rest of the story. Students from Stillman College, students that Betty did not know, came to help Betty the founder of their chapter, the person who had provided the opportunity to become part of ESA to them. The re-connection was important, and fully within the scope of every ESA ideal, and illustration of how people make a difference to each other in ESA, of how the circle of caring so often completes itself.
Our hope is that this website, and the new technology of this vibrant time, will bring ESA members even closer, both in difficult and good times. It is our hope that our new resources, combined with the more traditional ones, will strengthen the greatest gift of membership, our friendships, in ways that will transcend time and distance to remind us of the wonderful human connection that we share. In ESA we do care, we do share, and we will use and develop all the means we have on hand to enhance the connections that create stories like these, where ESA friends care enough to do what needs to be done.