By Emily Younker
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Joplin residents will have the chance next month to assist and encourage residents of Minot, N.D., another town familiar with the destruction that Mother Nature can bring.
A service trip to Minot is being organized for Sept. 5-9 by the Resource Development Center at Missouri Southern State University. More than 11,000 Minot residents were evacuated, and more than 4,100 homes and hundreds of businesses were damaged by heavy flooding of the Mouse River in June 2011 — just one month after an EF-5 tornado hit Joplin, resulting in 161 deaths and damaging thousands of homes and businesses.
“We would love to have community people who want to say thank you, who want to pay forward the love we received here in Joplin,” said Rikki Smith, an organizer of the trip.
The cost of the trip per person is $450, and includes transportation, lodging, meals and a T-shirt. Anyone who is unable to go on the trip but who wants to participate may contribute to the scholarship and sponsorship fund to assist those who have signed up to go, Smith said.
The idea for the trip began last year, when the Resource Development Center became involved with the New York Says Thank You Foundation. Representatives from the foundation had brought a flag taken from New York’s Ground Zero to Joplin on Sept. 11 and invited the public to help put the final stitches in it. The foundation also placed 3,000 small wooden stars, painted with messages and pictures, around Joplin through the Stars of Hope project.
The Resource Development Center tracked 11,000 volunteers during those two events and ultimately won a cash award from the Corporation for National and Community Service, a Washington, D.C.-based group, to put toward volunteer efforts, Smith said.
“We’ve been talking to a lot of people about how do we best say thank you for what’s happened in Joplin, how do we raise awareness for the National Day of Service, how can we spread that from here to other places that have suffered disaster and are trying to recover,” she said. “Let’s take that miracle of the human spirit to the next place, and hopefully, in turn, the next destination will go on the next year and take the torch and run it to the next tragedy. Our contribution is to help spur on that kind of movement.”
An information booth about the trip, as well as a sign-up sheet for interested volunteers, will be featured tonight at the Third Thursday event in downtown Joplin.
A Stars of Hope booth will be set up by Smith’s son, Jimmy Willerton, a 14-year-old Eagle Scout candidate of Troop 333. Willerton, a freshman at Joplin High School, will have 100 wooden stars available for Joplin residents to paint at Third Thursday. He will take them to Minot next month and set them up around the town.
The Resource Development Center also will be the host for three local community service projects during the week of Sept. 10. Volunteers will work with Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity; with a group from the historic Murphysburg district to help restore the Handy Chapel AME Church on West Fourth Street; and with Operation Goody Bag to send decorated, snack-filled lunch sacks to members of the military and first responders.
FOR MORE INFORMATION on the trip to Minot, N.D., or other service projects through the MSSU Resource Development Center, people may call 417-625-3521 or go to mssu.edu/resource-center.