College News

How a Crimson Beard Raised Funds for West Alabama Food Bank

Top: Dr. Cruz-Uribe with a gray beard. Bottom: Dr. Cruz-Uribe with a Crimson Storm beard.
A before and after of Dr. David Cruz-Uribe’s gray beard (top) and Crimson Storm beard (bottom).

From the June 2020 Desktop News | What began as a joke at the end of an email quickly became an act of service for UA’s department of mathematics, which recently completed a faculty fundraiser for the West Alabama Food Bank.

While working at home during the COVID-19 crisis, Dr. David Cruz-Uribe, the chair of the department, finished an email to his faculty with a joke about his beard graying during this time of elevated stress, and that he should dye it. Almost immediately, a staff member replied that she had a discount at a beauty store, and sent everyone a list of different hair dye colors for them to choose from. Before he knew it, the math department’s faculty had created a contest—the highest bidder would win the rights to choose Cruz-Uribe’s new beard color, and the funds would go to the charity of Cruz-Uribe’s choice.

“After a little bit, someone wrote to me and said, ‘Wouldn’t you get more money if you didn’t make this a competition?’” Cruz-Uribe said. “And I agreed. So Jil Chambless, an instructor in the Math Technology Learning Center, agreed that she would collect all the donations, and then people received votes based on the amount of money they put in.”

In the end, the faculty raised $530 to dye Cruz-Uribe’s beard Crimson Storm, with Raspberry Kamikaze as a close second.

Cruz-Uribe, now with a bright-crimson beard, chose to put the money towards the West Alabama Food Bank, where he and his family have volunteered for two years. During the COVID-19 crisis, the West Alabama Food Bank has become an asset for families all throughout the region after schools and businesses closed their doors.

“Since the second week of March, we’ve given out over 1.8 million pounds of food, which is has a retail value of about $2 million,” Jean Rykaczewski, director of the West Alabama Food Bank, said. “In Tuscaloosa alone, we’ve seen between 500 and 600 cars a week.”

The West Alabama Food Bank serves nine counties in the region, and has 96 community partners who distribute food to those in need. Since the beginning of COVID-19, the food bank has restructured to distribute food themselves, while still completing their Senior Brown Box program, which feeds over 2,000 seniors in the area, as well as providing meals to students who have lost access to food through their schools. As their partner organizations reopened, West Alabama Food Bank was able to shift the distribution of food back to their partners’ locations instead of their own, but still serve hundreds of families a week.

For Cruz-Uribe, contributing to the West Alabama Food Bank is an important part of giving back to his community. He hopes that this fundraiser will inspire many more in the future.

“It’s important to give back because we are giving to ourselves when we give to the community,” Cruz-Uribe said. ”At various times, my family has benefited from help from the community: friends, neighbors, church, and more. And it’s important to pass that spirit of giving on.”

To learn more about the West Alabama Food Bank, visit their website.

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