IP donates check to United Way of Selma

Published 7:52 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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By Travis Gupton

The Selma Times-Journal

International Paper is one of the largest factories in Dallas County. It should come as no surprise, IP has played a big role in helping the community and its employees devastated by the January 12 tornado.

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On Monday, IP presented United Way of Selma-Dallas County Executive Director Jeff Cothran a $15,000 check to help continue the recovery effort in Selma through United Way.

This was not the first donation that IP  made to United Way according to Mill Communications Manager Arthur McLean. The total donated to United Way Selma is $90,000. Another $10,000 will be donated to the River Ridge United Way, making the grand total donated $100,000.

“We have started the long-term recovery process,” Cothran said. “The long-term recovery group has been established. It has 13 members and I am a part of the finance committee.

“My job is to get with other partners that will be helping to write checks to rebuild houses. The big chunk of what IP is doing and what their commitment to us is doing is going straight to that.”

IP has also taken care of those affected internally by the storm. McLean said that IP has a program that helps employees and their families who are affected by natural disasters.

“The company has what is called the employee relief fund,” McLean said. “That is a corporate and employee-led fund where employees and the company match donations.

“Then they can give out directly to those relief payments who have been impacted by hurricanes, tornadoes or any kind of natural disaster.”

There were 66 IP employees who applied for the fund after the January 12 tornado that the company was able to help from the inside.

President of USW Local 1441 Buba Drammeh said that he was very pleased to hear that people were getting help from IP internally after the tornado.

“In one way or another they ask us not to disclose the dollar amount that IP has given them,” Drammeh said. “But to hear, ‘Hey I got something from them, ‘Hey I got something from them’ I was very happy to hear them say that.

‘‘Then coming back here and getting the news that we were donating the $100,000 that was really really good because we call ourselves IP and Dallas County is ours. We are the big dog in Dallas County. We feel like if anything happens we need to be at the top. In this case, IP did a very exceptional job.”

We are three months removed from the tornado but Mill Manager Mike Closson remembers January 12 like it was yesterday.

“I was home with COVID. I had got COVID the day before so I was sitting at home. I live in Prattville,” Closson said. “I got up and turned the television on and I called out here and I could see the satellite and I could see the Mill. They were tracking the storm with an animated satellite and it was going right to the Mill. I called and talked to Scott (Dinkel) then I talked to my administrative assistant Tina. She was hiding in my bathroom. I was terrified. As a plant manager, I feel a responsibility for all the employees here as well as the community and everything.

‘‘To be home sick was a pretty helpless feeling. You hate to not be here on a day like that when everyone is really scared. We shut things down and got in the basement. Everyone went into safety here. It was a scary day.”