The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

December 4, 2012

Our View: Ally that stood by us

The Joplin Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — Last week’s announcement that AmeriCorps St. Louis will soon wrap up service in Joplin is bittersweet.

Bitter is the news that a group that has stood by us since May 22, 2011, may be leaving. AmeriCorps has been Joplin’s ally on a journey this community could not have taken alone. Its presence was a reminder that the entire nation was in our corner following the tornado, and its commitment a symbol of the more than 155,000 volunteers who have given nearly 1 million hours to help us recover and rebuild.

Within hours of the tornado — when many of us were still stunned by what had happened and still trying to come to grips with the enormity of it all — the first AmeriCorps team was already setting up in Joplin.

As Emily Younker wrote in a story last week about their contribution: “AmeriCorps staff members have assisted Joplin in nearly every way possible since the tornado. In the first few weeks, they created a volunteer reception center and a missing persons call center, and they transported volunteers into the field to help with debris removal and search-and-rescue efforts. More recently, they have helped people move from temporary housing into permanent housing, delivered donated items to families and assisted with minor repair jobs.”

Assistant City Manager Sam Anselm said of AmeriCorps: “Words almost can’t describe what they’ve done for us.”

Sweet is the significance of its departure, however.

Joplin has come a long way — thanks to the help of AmeriCorps — and like an injured man helped back on his feet who has learned to walk and run again, we know we can move forward.

AmeriCorps St. Louis will wrap up its mission in Joplin later this month but may continue with a presence in the region. It also is considering establishing a base in Southwest Missouri, possibly in Springfield, to assist in future disasters.

Maybe our relationship with AmeriCorps hasn’t ended after all, but has grown.

Back on our feet, maybe we can become part of its outreach, part of the team that joins it in every way as it responds to future disasters nationwide.

Allies, indeed.