Remember the destructive tornadoes of May 2011? Joplin Missouri was the town most devastated by those terrible storms. One third of Joplin is gone, nothing left but the land…and the dreams that guide resilient citizens as they rebuild their lives and their city.
A quick snapshot of Joplin on October 29, 2011:
· A cement bank vault standing alone surrounded by a square of emptiness that used to be the bank
· A parking lot that used to serve the bank’s customers surrounds the emptiness
· A lonely make-shift, quickly erected structure serves as a temporary drive through window.
Frank Haith, head men’s basketball coach at the University of Missouri stepped up with a plan to help rebuild Joplin, and his idea turned into a beautiful experience for all involved. His wife, Pam, and I were lucky enough to travel along with the coaches and team on October 29-30 as they participated in the One State-One Spirit Basketball Benefit Game at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. The arena was packed, state Governor Jay Nixon was present, enthusiasm was high, and the spirit of co-operation filled the air. The University of Missouri presented a check for $275,000 from the sale of One State-One Spirit t-shirts that became available almost immediately after the tornado. Still on sale, there will be another check. The proceeds of the benefit game and other events of the weekend went in their entirety to Joplin’s recovery-rebuild programs. The game itself earned over $100,000.
It has been five months since the tornado created havoc. As we toured the town much of the devastation remained visible with a few piles of debris remaining along the highways and streets. These piles speak volumes about the magnitude of devastation, the work that remains and the amazing amount of cleaning and clearing already accomplished. There are blocks of businesses and homes that are simply gone. Foundations remain. Ghost like slabs of cement stand out like eery symbols of destruction so terrible it is unimaginable. Damaged restaurants and gas stations stand isolated, holes blown in their walls, collapsing in on themselves. The high school, where graduation had just ended when the tornado hit, stands silent and unusable – bricks missing from walls, roof areas sagging into the main building, empty holes where glass doors and windows used be.
As we talked to Joplin residents at the reception and at the basketball game, one thing was certain. These people love and care for each other and their city. Their hearts embrace each other in support as some grieve for the lives of sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and others grieve for the loss of homes and family keepsakes. Even as tears came into their eyes, and pain vibrated with each word and story, strength, hope and gratitude prevailed. Somehow trust must grow within their hearts as this winter progresses and sights and scents of spring 2012 begins to fill the air. Spring is tornado season, and many people will relive the terror of May 22, 2011, hearts pounding, prayers flowing from their lips. Joplin needs to know that the world remembers what happened there. They need to know they are loved and cared for … that they have support for the remainder of their recovery journey.
Joplin has a terrific need for funds, building supplies, new homes and furnishings. There is a way that everyone who reads this can help. We can send waves of unconditional love to the town and all of the 50,000 or so people who continue to live, work, worship and go to school there. We can energetically send love to the families who lost loved ones. We can send love to the Habitat for Humanity project as groups of people come together to build 10 new homes for low income families who are still living in temporary shelter. We can send love and appreciation to the organizations who are working hard to gather together the essentials of life for families who have lost everything and can’t afford to rebuild and re-purchase clothing and household goods. We can send love and hope to those who were injured and are still recovering from the physical and emotional trauma. We can send love and appreciation to the teachers who teach in temporary classrooms never meant to house students. We can send love to every religious leader who emotionally supported thousands with words of kindness, sermons of hope, and prayers for patience and strength. We can send love and gratitude to the nurses and doctors who were working in the hospital that moved off its foundations, patients terrified and others dying because the power loss meant their life support failed.
Stop reading for just a moment and send your love right now while it is on your mind. Together we can create a love-fest. If hundreds and thousands of us send our love, it will be felt and it will support the town in ways we’ll never know, loving and creating from within.
If you are interested in helping the people of Joplin in other ways, here are some links to give you more insight into their ongoing needs.
Joplin Facebook Tornado Information Page
Missouri Southern State University – Ways to Help
Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri
The Joplin Tornado First Response Fund & The Joplin Recovery Fund http://cfswmo.org/
Community Foundation of the Ozarks
Operation Photo Rescue
Habitat for Humanity 10 for Joplin Project
Joplin Chamber of Commerce