April 30, 2012
AUBURN, Ala. - Auburn University head football coach Gene Chizik spent his morning visiting patients at the East Alabama Medical Center and head men's basketball coach Tony Barbee refined his skills as a Bingo caller for the residents of Azalea Place Retirement Home in the afternoon, on Auburn Athletics Fourth Annual Tigers Give Back Community Service Day, Monday.
"It's great to be able to give back," said Chizik. "This is all about giving back to the people in the community. Auburn is a great community, the whole surrounding area. It's our job to get out and mingle with the people and try to give some encouragement."
One of the patients Coach Chizik was able to visit was Johnny Richmond, known to the Auburn Family as Mr. Penny. The longtime Auburn football fan uttered "War Eagle" as Chizik, his sister, Merenda, and mother, Dora Lockhart, entered the room. Chizik was quick to tell Mr. Penny how many players were thinking of him and asking about his progress. To show Coach just how far he had come, he squeezed his hand in appreciation.
"Mr. Penny is getting better. It was awesome to get to talk to him and have him respond," said Chizik. "It was great to hear him say `War Eagle.' It's unbelievable that was one of the first things he said. He is getting back to health and really trying day-by-day to fight through this. It was great to see his daughter and his mom and I hope they enjoyed it as much as we did."
Coach Barbee and his staff got into the fun and games serving as bingo callers and supplying the prizes for the big winners at Azalea Place Retirement Home.
"This is what it's all about. Sometimes you get wrapped in your job and what's next in terms of the program," said Barbee. "The important thing is that we give back. We're such an integral part of the community, and it feels good to get away from the office and hopefully put a smile on some people's faces.
Chizik and Barbee were just two of more than 100 Auburn staff members out in the community today, including three other head coaches in women's golf coach Kim Evans, straight off the SEC Championship title run, head baseball coach John Pawlowski, gymnastics head coach Jeff Graba, equestrian head coach Greg Williams, head soccer coach Karen Hoppa and head men's tennis coach Eric Shore.
Other projects featured painting iron fences around Pine Hill Cemetery, building a bike trail at Chewacla State Park, sanding and varnishing furniture and yard work at the Bethany House, cleaning up after CityFest in Kiesel Park and organizing the basement at Auburn United Methodist Church.
"We're so excited to be able to work in our community again this year on our Tigers Give Back Community Service Day," said Latisha Durroh, Auburn's Director of Community Relations for the Athletics Department. "More than 100 of our coaches and staff volunteered again this year so we could assist with several projects and visit patients in the hospital and residents of a local retirement home. It's such a rewarding experience for all of us and allows us to thank members of our Auburn Family who have attended our events and supported Auburn Athletics for years. We really look forward to this day every year and are so glad we have an opportunity to give back to our community."