James O'Dwyer: 2011 Honoree
Nineteen-year old, Georgia native James O'Dwyer is a charismatic engineering student and true Southern boy who loves the outdoors, country music and rooting for the Alabama Crimson Tide. On April 27, 2011, James was sitting in his dorm room at the University of Alabama when the devastating tornado hit Tuscaloosa. The tornado miraculously spared the campus but left a six-mile track of destruction across town. After the campus was shut down and he returned home, James decided he would collect supplies to help the tornado victims in Tuscaloosa.
Utilizing several social media networks, James put out the word that he would be collecting donations for those affected by the tornado and within hours, his driveway was filled with people dropping off donations. With the success of his collection, James was not only able to drop off supplies in Tuscaloosa, but continue collections to aid many of the smaller towns affected by the crisis. He soon started Magnolia Disaster Relief, an aid program that targets the small rural towns that were hit the hardest and helped the least.
Although it has been several months since the tornado hit, James and Magnolia Disaster Relief are still very active, coordinating donations to affected areas and providing help for other disasters no matter how large or small. He plans to create "hit kits" which will provide all the essentials for a small community to have on hand in case of a disaster. He never wants to be unprepared again and believes even the smallest communities can be ready for when a natural disaster occurs.
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