The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 17, 2013

Land donation will help Joplin woman come home after tornado

JOPLIN, Mo. — Rhonda Wilkins and Patricia Bryan had never met before.

But their paths finally crossed for the first time Thursday as Wilkins, who lost everything in the May 2011 tornado, officially took possession of a piece of land that Bryan had donated to assist with tornado recovery efforts after the storm.

Wilkins, Bryan and their families gathered at 2204 S. Grand Ave. for a short ceremony to hand over the property’s deed. Also present were representatives of Samaritan’s Purse, the organization handling the building of the house at that site, as well as volunteers from Wisconsin, Colorado and Kentucky who were in Joplin to work on a separate Samaritan’s Purse project.

Soft-spoken and teary-eyed, Wilkins said receiving the deed was overwhelming.

“It was just a God-blessed day for me in many ways,” she said. “Words can’t really say how I feel inside.”

At the time of the tornado, Wilkins lived in the 2400 block of South Connor Avenue. Her house was being bought for her by her son Matt, who had returned from a six-year service stint in the Marine Corps.

On the afternoon of May 22, 2011, Wilkins was in Riverton, Kan. She saw the storm pass over the town and head east toward Joplin. As soon as she heard about the devastation from television reports, she jumped in her car and drove home.

But finding her home was nearly impossible. Because of the destruction, she couldn’t recognize South Connor Avenue. When she finally came across her house, she saw that it had been severely damaged.

“I had four walls still standing, but it was devastation everywhere,” she said.

Wilkins said she and her two sons spent a few days salvaging what they could, including some silverware and family photos. She moved in with a friend, but she was so stunned at what had happened that for months she could not ask for help from any of the relief organizations that had come to Joplin.

“It was hard to believe that I had lost everything,” she said.

Last fall, a friend urged Wilkins to call Samaritan’s Purse for assistance. She got in touch with case manager Stephen Bergen, who dropped off paperwork for her later that day. Within another 24 hours, Wilkins said, she had returned the papers and was on the docket for assistance.

Bryan and her husband, David, were in their house at 21st Street and New Jersey Avenue when the tornado struck. They took shelter in the basement and found their house two-thirds gone when they emerged. Additionally, three of their eight rental properties across Joplin were either destroyed or damaged, including the property at 2204 S. Grand Ave.

They were surprised in the weeks that followed by how much help they received from volunteers — particularly from those associated with Samaritan’s Purse. Bryan said it was not unusual for groups of people to show up at one of their properties to assist with debris removal and cleanup.

“It was just like an army of ants,” she said. “They just showed up in crews.”

The Bryans were back in their own repaired house by November 2011 and started talking about donating at least one of their rental properties to tornado recovery efforts. After her husband passed away last May, Bryan donated the 2204 S. Grand Ave. property to Samaritan’s Purse last fall. It was the first property the couple had bought in Joplin when they entered the rental business, she said.

Choosing Samaritan’s Purse as the recipient of the donation was an easy decision, Bryan said.

“They had helped us so much on the property, and I heard they were in the area doing projects, and I wanted this property to be part of that effort,” she said.

Because Samaritan’s Purse is not authorized to receive property donations, the Joplin Family Worship Center handled the transaction on behalf of the organization, pastor Daniel Wermuth said. Local attorney Scott Vorhees provided the legal services, he said.

Bergen said work on the three-bedroom, two-bathroom house should pick up sometime during the spring. Wilkins will contribute at least 75 hours of work toward the house, which overlooks the vast Joplin High School site, he said.

Wilkins said she “very much” looks forward to getting back into her own home, doing yardwork, planting flowers and cooking meals for her sons in her own kitchen.

She said that without the Bryans’ donated property, she likely would not be expecting to move into a house later this year.

“I could tell them ‘thank you’ over and over again 1,000 times, but it would never be enough,” she said. “I am so grateful of the donation that they made.”

About the organization

SAMARITAN’S PURSE is an international Christian organization that assists survivors of natural disasters, war, disease and poverty. Its founder is Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham. Residents may volunteer for local projects by contacting volunteer coordinator Stephen Bergen at 417-291-1515.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Pseudoephedrine sales in Pittsburg to require prescription

    Starting Friday, those who purchase pseudoephedrine and related products in Pittsburg will need a prescription to do so.

    July 22, 2014

  • Cherokee County Commission accepts general counsel's resignation

    Kevin Cure, who has served as general counsel for the Cherokee County Commission since 2005, submitted a handwritten resignation to the board on Monday in the aftermath of a landfill controversy.

    July 22, 2014

  • Mike Pound 2010.jpg Mike Pound: Parents can get help with school supplies

    I don’t know much about demographics other than the fact that I no longer belong to a “targeted demographic.” When I was younger, I was bombarded by commercials and ads from companies that were trying to sell me things that I not only needed but wanted.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jasper County Commission reviews traffic plans

    The Jasper County Commission will hold public hearings today and Thursday on a number of traffic changes proposed in the county. No one spoke when the first hearing was held Tuesday as part of the regular commission meeting, according to Jim Honey, Eastern District associate commissioner.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin school board reviews audit procedures

    A team from the Missouri State Auditor’s Office has begun requesting documents in its task to audit the operations and management of the Joplin School District, the audit manager told the Board of Education on Tuesday.

    July 22, 2014

  • Joplin man to stand trial in accident case

    A passenger accused of causing an accident on Interstate 44 in Joplin that injured three others as well as himself was ordered bound over for trial Tuesday on three felony counts.

    July 22, 2014

  • r072214soroptimist3.jpg Volunteers spend week providing camp experience to foster youths

    Karen McGlamery is a massage therapist. Terri Falis-Cochran is a finance manager. Jane McCaulley is a retired art teacher. But for a week each summer, the three are among dozens of area residents who become camp counselors.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Neosho school board hires company to manage substitutes

    Citing its hopes of shifting health care costs and utilizing more time from retired teachers, the Neosho Board of Education granted a contract Monday to a temporary employee company to manage its substitute teacher program.

    July 22, 2014

  • Main Street TIF district study to begin

    A measure that allows the city to charge its $15,000 in administrative costs for studying a proposal to create a tax increment financing district on South Main Street was approved Monday by the Joplin City Council.

    July 21, 2014

  • Carthage man pleads guilty in sexual abuse case

    A Carthage man pleaded guilty Monday to sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in a plea agreement that would cap the length of his prison term at no more than 15 years.

    July 21, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter