University of Alabama Huntsville Bookstore Helps Students in Storm’s Aftermath

June 08, 2011

A storm front passes over Huntsville on April 27, 2011. (The Huntsville Times/Glenn Baeske)

Final’s week is a stressful time for students. They must study for finals, move out of dorms, and seniors anxiously anticipate graduation. But this year, the students at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) had something else to contend with – the aftermath of violent storms and tornadoes that ripped through the area.

The state of Alabama was hit particularly hard when tornadoes touched down on April 26 and ravaged many parts of the southern state. Although the UAH campus did not sustain any damage, there were extensive power outages throughout the Huntsville area for several days. Finals were cancelled, graduation was postponed, and students were advised to go home if they could.

Tornado behind the First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama

With cell towers down, many students could not reach their family and friends. And with no electricity, banks and ATMs were not operating. That is when John Maxon, Associate Vice President at the University of Alabama in Huntsville,  contacted the campus bookstore manager, Amber Hill.

“John Maxon contacted me to see what we could do for our students,” said Hill. “Our students needed money to get home. The obvious solution was to set up a BuyBack station at a central location on campus.”

However, because there was no electrical power, Hill had to come up with another way to conduct business. Hill and her regional manager, Bobby Hamous, quickly came up with a plan.

John Maxon, Amber Hill and Bobby Hamous

“Our systems enabled us to access Huntsville”s BuyBack reports from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and print the buyback reports from there,” said Hamous. “I picked up the reports and Amber and I each drove 50 miles to a central meeting point where I gave her the reports.  Amber took the reports and headed back to campus to conduct  BuyBack.”

With only partial power from a generator, the dimly lit UAH Student Union hallway became a make-shift bookstore. Lines of eager students wrapped around the halls, waiting to sell their used textbooks back for cash to go home.

“I was most impressed with the can do attitude that Amber and the Barnes & Noble College staff expressed when I called and asked if there was any way we could provide buyback to the students without power,” said Maxon. “There was no hesitancy in Amber’s replies, as it was not a matter of if this can be done – the question was how best can we do it? Within 15 minutes of my initial call, I received a call back and was advised that the buyback process would begin within 2-3 hours. That is dedication to the client and students!”

“We had the ability to make this happen because of the technology and processes we have in place,” said Hill. “We were just so happy that we were able to help our students get through this tough time.”

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