A few weeks ago my wife and I went to Joplin to help with the cleanup. The the pictures and videos you see don’t really convey the level of devastation. Last I heard there were around 150 people who died. Just looking at the destruction, you’d assume that thousands died.
From what I understand, FEMA is going to pay for 90% of the cleanup if it is done by early August. The city will be responsible for the remaining 10%. However, volunteer hours count toward the city’s portion. So if you are in a position to go help, you’ll be helping in more than one way.
We spent half our day clearing a bunch of trees from a neighborhood near the hospital that was hit. We’d cut up the downed trees with chainsaws and then move them out by the road. There was a large semi with an open topped trailer and some sort of device with a claw that would pickup the debris next to the road and haul it off. A few of the houses in that neighborhood were being worked on, but a lot were still waiting to see if it was going to be worth trying to salvage them. The house across the street belonged to a doctor and while we were there he sold it to someone who runs a construction company. The insurance company had said it wasn’t going to be worth fixing it, but the construction worker thought he could get it back into shape.
We ate lunch at a large church and then headed out to another site. This was a small house one story house that had a huge tree on top of it. We cleared a lot of the debris from the yard and put it out where the city could pick it up. The cable company was coming through putting in new wires and the telephone poles that looked like they had just been put in. They were also picking up all the scrap wire that was all over the place from the previous cable install.
The house had been shifted on its foundation and it looked to me like it might need to just be bulldozed and rebuilt from scratch. We found a lot of pictures of kids in the yard that we put back in the house, but they could have come from anywhere.
The people who had chainsaws went to help the couple across the street who were trying to fix up a house that hadn’t been hit quite as hard. They owned several houses in the neighborhood and were trying to get them fixed back up so they could rent them out again. Housing is in short supply so every place helps.
Most of the organizations are staring to focus on specific things. The church where we ate lunch is working mainly on distributing food and supplies to people in the area. They said the hard part is to get people to take what they need because many of them want to leave it for “someone who really needs it.” Other organizations have equipment and are sending people out to do some of the bigger clearing jobs. If you want to go help, I’d suggest finding an organization that is doing something you are good and and trying to work with them.
The local animal shelter is swamped and they have been adopting out animals without any type of fee. Response has been good and lots of people are coming from all over to adopt dogs and cats. You don’t really think about how many pets are displaced in something like this.
A day or two after the tornado, a local youth minister decided to take some kids down to help. They didn’t really have a plan but headed down with a van of teenagers. They tried to hook up with another organization, but there didn’t seem to be anything for them to do, so they found a house and started clearing stuff. The house had been marked that it was checked and no one was in it. They picked up a piece of a wall and found a storm shelter. When they got the wall off there was a very grateful family trapped inside.
There are still a lot of needs in Joplin, so if you have thought about donating time or money, I’d encourage you to find a local organization that you can help.