The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 23, 2012

Presidential medal sought for tornado volunteers

Joplin mayor encourages nominations

Today is the last day for people to nominate those who have volunteered to help Joplin with tornado recovery for the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal.

Nominations close at midnight. Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean said she is asking that everyone who can access the Internet fill out a nomination form.

The presidential medal has been honoring Americans for deeds of service for 40 years, according to the award website at It is the second highest civilian award in the U.S., outranked only by the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Criteria for selection are that people have performed exemplary service outside their employment to combat a long-term or persistent problem, and that those acts provide inspiration to other people.

Former honorees include Roger Kemp, of Leawood, Kan., who founded The Ali Kemp Education Foundation in honor of his slain daughter. The organization teaches girls and young women how to defend themselves against aggressors, such as the stalker who killed 19-year-old Ali Kemp outside a public swimming pool in 2002 in Leawood.

In Joplin’s case, the movement is meant to recognize the 125,000 volunteers who have come to Joplin since the May 22 EF-5 tornado rather than one individual volunteer.

An effort to seek the presidential award for Joplin volunteers has been conducted by Colbert-Kean along with Cate Cassel Loch of Scrubs for Joplin and Rebecca Williams, an administrator of the “Joplin Tornado Info” page on Facebook. The mayor said the movement came about when the Facebook page was seeking a volunteer involved in Joplin’s recovery to nominate.

“I commented that it would be hard to pick out one person because so many have done so much,” Colbert-Kean said. From that, the three women began working on a project to try to honor all volunteers. The mayor said they have confirmed that it is acceptable to the White House to nominate all volunteers.

Colbert-Kean said an event being planned for the May 22 tornado anniversary is appropriately called a Walk of Unity, a 3.7-mile walk through the hardest hit section of the tornado zone, because of the unity that was shown in responding to what has been called the worst tornado disaster in the country in 60 years.

“What better way to illustrate that than submitting the Volunteer Joplin nomination, showing we are one?” she said. “The country came together as one to help Joplin. I did a submission myself, and I am encouraging all residents to submit one.”

Those who want to help with the nomination may submit a form that is located on the White House Web page. Organizers say to type in “Joplin” for the first name and “Volunteers” for the last name, and to use 50 for the age as an average of those who have helped.

Facebook page

A FACEBOOK PAGE has been established for the effort at

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