One Man’s Source of Hope Is the Entire Community’s Safety Net

Many residents of Central Alabama remember — all too well — when a tornado tore through Fultondale on January 25, 2021. The treacherous twister left a 10-mile path of destruction in its wake. Amid the wreckage, the community came together to rebuild. And United Way of Central Alabama was there, in some cases to support the people’s efforts and in other cases to take the lead.

Hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed, including that of Willie Peterson, a Vietnam veteran, former labor leader and beloved McAbee retiree. United Way Hands On, UWCA’s volunteer center, assembled an amazing network of labor unions and local companies, including GAF Roof Systems in Tuscaloosa that donated the shingles for the roof.

Everyone was eager to help this well-respected member of the community. David Clark, Hands On Community Services Liaison, said, “This project is a great example of how we work together to help our community, help our veterans and help each other. We brought a diverse group of people in to help the Petersons rebuild and begin to put their lives back together after a devastating loss.”

For nearly 100 years, in addition to funding scores of local non-profits, providing direct services to the community and constantly working to move Central Alabama forward, UWCA has consistently been a positive force in the aftermath of disaster. From establishing the Community Crisis Fund to running the 2-1-1 Call Center that connects those in need to vital resources, UWCA serves as the community’s safety net when no other single organization has the capacity or expertise to address the scale and diversity of issues affecting people.

Mr. Peterson expressed his gratitude for UWCA’s work and dedication, saying, “Out of all the people I reached out to, United Way and United Way Hands On were there. I felt as though United Way was the only way for me to get back on my feet. I’m not sure if I could have found anyone more capable of rebuilding and having the patience to do it.”

He went on to say that he had begun to wonder “whether there were still good people left out there. But I know for sure,” he said. “United Way proved that.”

Be part of something bigger than yourself, something that makes a positive difference in the lives of others and makes your community a better place for us all to live. Please visit Volunteer – United Way of Central Alabama (