While collecting donations for her University of Alabama classmates who were ravaged by an April 27 tornado, Lizzie Danner found help from some unexpected sources — including a past star of ABC’s The Bachelorette and a former girlfriend of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
“I’ve had people all around the U.S. asking how they can help and what they can send,” said Danner, a Ponte Vedra resident and college senior.
Using connections through friends and relatives, Danner caught the attention of Trista Sutter, ABC’s first Bachelorette, and Izabella St. James, author of a memoir about life at the Playboy mansion.
St. James, Sutter and other Bachelorette stars tweeted about Danner’s efforts and generated some national recognition.
“I woke up with over 120 direct messages just from the tweets,” she said.
Working alongside her sorority sister Katie Griscom, Danner has been urging local businesses, schools and churches to collect donations since she returned from the school nearly a week after the category F-5 tornado — an event she won’t soon forget.
Griscom’s house in Jacksonville, but she was overwhelmed with support. Donations flooded her garage and house.
ey River, a restaurant and bar at the St. Johns Town Center, was already planning to work with the University of Alabama National Alumni Association of Jacksonville and offered to accept donations instead.
“We are lucky enough to have a large storage space,” said Angela Connor, Whiskey River sales and events manager.
Connor added that Whiskey River will host a concert, silent auction and fundraiser for the college at a later date.
Danner is overjoyed at the response she has received.
“I’m so thankful that there are so many people who want to help and reach out,” she said.
She noted that they have received too many clothes, and asks people focus on sending things like toiletries, items for babies, batteries, flashlights, water and other items.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant but we could use anything besides clothes,” she said. “We could clothe the city of Tuscaloosa [Ala.] with the amount of clothes we’ve received.”