The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 19, 2013

Rebuild Joplin plans ride to New Orleans

By Emily Younker
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — A springtime bicycle ride being organized by Rebuild Joplin will benefit survivors of three major natural disasters: the May 2011 Joplin tornado, last year’s Superstorm Sandy and 2005’s Hurricane Katrina.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” said Jerrod Hogan, director of Rebuild Joplin. “Our organization values people and values getting them home.”

Riders will depart Joplin on Thursday, June 20, and ride approximately 800 miles over the course of 10 days through Bentonville, Ark., Little Rock, Ark., Jackson, Miss., and Baton Rouge, La., to their final destination of New Orleans. Several fundraising events, such as barbecues or meet-and-greets, are being tentatively planned at stops along the way.

Hogan said the goal of the bike ride — dubbed “Jomonola,” a mash-up of abbreviations for Joplin, Mo., and New Orleans, La. — is to raise $150,000. One-third of that amount, a total of $50,000, is expected to stay local to support Rebuild Joplin, a nonprofit organization that constructs housing for survivors of the 2011 tornado.

Another $50,000 will go to the St. Bernard Project, a New Orleans-based nonprofit that assists in recovery efforts for communities affected by natural disaster and for housing projects for survivors of Hurricane Katrina. According to the project’s website, 8,000 New Orleans families still can’t afford to rebuild their homes following the 2005 hurricane.

The final $50,000 sum will go to East Coast organizations helping families who have been impacted by Superstorm Sandy, which struck late last October.

Hogan said anyone who wants to ride would be required to participate in fundraising, including some online projects being planned before the ride begins. There are also cyclists who have held training sessions in recent weekends to help riders physically prepare for the trip, he said.

“It’s not a race; it’s a ride,” he said. “If you get tired one day, we’ll be able to pull over and take a slower pace, but at the end of the day, it’s an 800-mile trip on the itty-bitty seat of a bike.”

The idea for Jomonola originated with Providence, R.I., resident Jim Feeney, who has spent several years volunteering in the New Orleans area with the St. Bernard Project, Hogan said. After the 2011 tornado struck Joplin, Feeney spent a few days volunteering here.

Feeney, an avid cyclist who has completed two cross-country rides as well as one ride around the perimeter of the country, plans to participate in the Jomonola ride, Hogan said.

To participate

Those who want to participate in the bike ride from Joplin to New Orleans may call Rebuild Joplin at 623-0065. The group is also seeking corporate sponsorships and support, director Jerrod Hogan said.