By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala - For an athletic department that prides itself on setting records and community service, Wednesday’s 8th annual Tigers Give Back Day was a chance for Auburn to accomplish both at the same time.
“We have never landscaped a house, the entire project in an hour and a half. That’s basically what they did this morning,” said Mark Grantham, Executive Director of Auburn-Opelika Habitat of Humanity.
The home sits on Luverne Avenue, a little more than a mile north of Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“We’ve been through with the home for about a month,” Grantham said. “We’ve been fighting weather and every few days of rain to try to get a driveway put in. The homeowner’s been ready to move in for about a month.”
Grantham said Auburn’s landscapers, consisting of members of senior staff, compliance, marketing, information technology, and women’s basketball, were “very productive and knowledgeable.”
“Laid all of the sod, planted all of the shrubs, put all of the straw out, all the landscaping finished and detailed, so that we can now call for final inspection, get a Certificate of Occupancy and she can move in next week,” he said.
Grantham said the assistance from Auburn was “a great blessing.”
“It’s exciting for us to see the excitement of the homeowner,” Grantham said. “The family drives by every day looking to see, because we’ve been slowed by weather.
“She’ll drive by today and she’ll see a finished home. The house has been sitting here, beautifully landscaped now. These guys did an amazing job,” he said. “The feeling that it gives to that family is a great reward for us to be able to be a part of that.”
In addition to the Habitat grounds crew, Auburn Athletics dispatched eight other teams of volunteers.
For the second straight year, Gus Malzahn visited cancer and pediatric patients at East Alabama Medical Center.
“It means a lot to get out in the community,” Malzahn said. “Any time you can make a difference, that’s really what it’s about. This is something I look forward to every year. This is my second year here. Some familiar faces. Any time you can encourage someone, that’s really what life’s about.”
In all, more than 120 coaches and staff members participated, hoping to model servant-leadership to Auburn’s student-athletes.
“Our players use their influence in a positive way,” Malzahn said. “Real proud of those guys. They get it. Not just today but every day. I’m very proud to be their head coach.”
Fresh off winning the national championship, Auburn equestrian coach Greg Williams and his assistants joined volleyball and women’s golf coaches to work on the bike trail at Chewacla State Park.
Other sites included the East Alabama Food Bank, filling food backpacks for students for End Child Hunger in Alabama, Head Start, Monarch Estates Retirement Home and the Joyland Child Development Center.
“Today has been just amazing,” Community Relations Director Latisha Durroh said. “I think we probably get just as much, if not more, out of it than the organizations we serve. I’m always so proud to live here and work with others who really care about our community and feel so strongly about giving back.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer