The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 19, 2013

Habitat volunteer coordinator says she loves giving people ‘unique and meaningful’ moment

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer

JOPLIN, Mo. — EDITOR’S NOTE: The Joplin Globe, in an ongoing series, is telling the story of the many hands that play a role in recovery from the May 22, 2011, tornado by following the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home at 2630 S. Wall Ave. Every piece of the home and every volunteer has a story.

Laura Edwards, a Joplin resident of 12 years, used to coordinate volunteers at Camp Barnabas in Purdy. Each summer, the camp serves some 1,500 campers with special needs and chronic diseases.

Now, she coordinates wall raisings and paint days for volunteers for Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, which has 26 homes under construction.

While the two not-for-profits have greatly differing purposes, Edwards said working for both of them has given her the feeling of making a difference.

“It’s coordinating people for a different reason but still giving people an opportunity that is unique and meaningful,” she said of her Habitat job.

Each day, her primary focus is a Google calendar and desk calendar. On them she puts names of groups, like “Thrivent Builds,” and individuals, like “Ken Rosberg, Kansas City.”

At 2630 S. Wall Ave., where the Kunce home is nearing its final phase of construction, she’s also coordinating work by the sponsoring group of volunteers. Affiliated with the local court system, the group members call themselves the Justice League.

“They have at least one more volunteer workday to paint the interior doors and the trim, so we’re really entering the final phase,” Edwards said.

Having headed volunteer coordination, she’s had a hand in many of the 45 homes Habitat has completed since the 2011 tornado. She’s also looking ahead to another 17 scheduled to begin this year. The majority will be built by Thrivent volunteers coming as both weeklong teams and weekend warriors.

“It can be complicated,” Edwards said. “I talk to a lot of people, talk with our construction guys, make sure everyone is on board with everything and that they know where to report and what they’ll be working on.

“Oftentimes, we work with a lot of unskilled people, people who want to learn but who don’t have a lot of experience. It’s a great opportunity for them to come learn something new, to walk away at the end of the day and say, ‘I painted a house’ or ‘I raised a wall’ and ‘I did some good today.’”

A work in progress

“I love to see the progress of a home coming together. Seeing all the ins and outs, it’s really exciting,” said Laura Edwards, Habitat for Humanity volunteer coordinator.