First I want to say a huge THANK YOU to everyone who helped with the Joplin trip. Your kindness and generosity helped many, many people in Joplin in a very direct and meaningful way. (Tyler, Christine, Korey, Tara, Michael, Robin, Whitney, Jan, Rachel and Nancy. You are all rock stars!)
I cannot even begin to describe the devastation I saw. Entire neighborhoods…as far as the eye can see were just gone. Not just flattened, not just piles of rubble. Gone.
(Find a bunch more pics on my Facebook album by clicking HERE)
But I also saw some of the most amazing acts of kindness and service to others that I believe I will ever see in my life.
Here are some of the highlights of what happened:
First of all, we used a good portion of the money donated to buy dozens of much needed flashlights, lanterns, batteries and plastic storage containers, which were greatly in demand in Joplin. We also purchased a massive quantity of soaps, shampoos, deodorant, etc. We then created boxes and boxes full of “Care Kits” to be handed out. We created different kits for men, women, and even children (with SpongeBob and other fun toothbrushes, etc.)
When we arrived at the first Distribution Center (DC) in Joplin, we immediately started handing these kits out to VERY grateful recipients. Some of them hadn’t had soap or shampoo in a week!
We helped some other volunteers cut and clear some huge trees from one particular property. Below is a pic of me working with my chainsaw, helped by my 13year old son. My six year old is keeping himself busy in the foreground…
After a while, the owners of the home returned to try and retrieve some of their belongings from their condemned (but now accessible) home. (They survived the tornado by putting the kids in the bathtub and laying on top of them)
In their driveway was a Chevy Suburban that had been flattened and practically cut in half by a massive tree. Now that the tree had been removed, they were hoping to retrieve some important medicine that the Grandma of the family had been without for a week. They asked if I could use my chainsaw to cut part of the vehicle away to access it. 🙂 That wasn’t going to happen, but what I DID make work was using a large tree limb as leverage to make the opening in the back larger. Even then it was a very small opening, one only a tiny person could get through. Enter my six-year old tough guy! He didn’t hesitate at all to jump into the back of that flattened vehicle and work his way through the broken glass and twisted metal to get to the prize. When the medication was retrieved and given to the Grandma, she said “Thank you so much, you have saved my life!”. Now, I have no idea if she meant that literally or figuratively. But I’ll tell you this…my six year old sure took it to heart! He is SO PROUD that he was able to help someone in such a special way. He keeps saying “I saved that old lady’s life, didn’t I Dad?” He may only be six years old, but I believe this moment shaped his life in such a way that he will forever understand the power of helping others.
An incredible aspect of the situation in Joplin is the sheer number of volunteers helping in so many different ways. While working on the cleanup, barely five minutes would go by without a car or truck coming by with people offering cold water, Gatorade or something to eat. Other people where volunteering by sharpening saws, fixing flat tires caused by the millions of nails everywhere, and I even saw one person giving massages to the volunteers. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many people willing to do whatever it takes to help others.
As many of my readers know, my son is Deaf and I have a special affinity to helping people who are also Deaf. We did connect with a couple of Deaf people who had been affected, including one young Deaf man who lost EVERYTHING in the tornado. He had a girlfriend and a 2 year old son, and was living in a hotel room that he was only sure to have for two more days after we met him. After guiding him to connect with FEMA and the Red Cross to get some paperwork done to get some assistance, we put together a care package for him containing lots of new clothes, toiletries, games, and a bunch of other stuff we figured he could use. His car had been demolished in the tornado, but luckily his insurance company took care of him very quick, and he had just picked up a new/used car an hour before we met with him. So we also gave him a $50 gas card so he could get his first full tank of gas.
I could write a novel about everything we saw and experienced on this day. So many awesome things happened. But this post is already very long, so I’ll end it by saying this…if you have a chance to help in any way, please take the chance. If you can help a neighbor who is suffering from some other disaster by giving your time and energy, please do it. If you can help the people of Joplin by donating financially, then do that instead…or better yet, do both!
The people of Joplin (and many others affected by tornadoes all over the country) are going to need a LOT more help before this is over. Please send a donation to the Salvation Army by clicking HERE, or donate to the reputable charity of your choice.