'Keep everybody uplifted:' Triangle donations provide relief to Alabama tornado victims

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— A Triangle man who lost several family members in tornadoes collected a truck full of donations for surviving family members and their neighbors and drove it to Alabama Tuesday.

Erroll Reese, a host of the Sports Shop on Buzz Sports Radio, lost seven members of his family and said at least 30 more members of his family had no home following the storms.

“Everybody was living on the same street, 15 family members on the same street,” he said following the tornadoes.

Evony Lashawn Wilson lived on Road 39, where her mother’s prayer closet still stands, though nothing else of the home does.

The storm put her on crutches, but in a meeting room at an Opelika, Ala. hotel, her family is lifting her up.

“I look out to y’all, and you and I know we’re going to get through it together. We’re all going to be here for each other,” she said.

Reese returned to Alabama with T-shirts that proclaim his family will rebound. He also brought along a truckload of love and creature comforts.

“Some of this stuff is brand new. Some people went out and bought stuff,” Reese said of the donations he received.

The truck was filled with bottles of water, boxes of food and clothes all donated by people in the Triangle. A company called Alsco provided the truck.

Reese said he grew up in Birmingham, Ala. But he visited Opelika every weekend.

“We were sent down here every Saturday to get culture, fishing and hunting and riding horses and things of that nature,” he said.

Outside an Alabama church, the names of Reese’s seven family members are written upon the 23 crosses standing to honor the lives lost to the storm.

“Unreal, I still haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it,” family member Tiffany Robinson said.

Robinson was home with her parents on Road 39 when an alarm went off on her cellphone.

“My mom ran to the closet, and I was holding her, and the next thing I know, we were outside,” Robinson said.

A tree fell on top of Robinson as her mother lay beneath her, lifeless. Her father’s body was found a few yards away. Robinson spent five days in the hospital.

“Prayers, that’s the most important thing. Just keep everybody uplifted,” Robinson responded when asked what she most needed following the tragedy.

As Reese headed to Road 39 for the first time, the talk show host had no words.

“I wasn’t expecting this,” he finally said. “When things like this happen, you just thank God for living. That’s what I’m doing right now. Give us the ability to help others who can’t do it right now.”