The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 7, 2012

Joplin Tornado First Response Fund advances 19 requests

City officials say fund provides local control of donations

Board members of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund agreed Thursday to further examine 19 of 35 grant applications the board has received.

The board has decided to distribute $350,000 of the $808,000 available in the fund, which was established within a few days of last year’s deadly tornado to receive donations that would be under local control and go directly to benefit Joplin.

Applications came from the city itself, social service agencies, churches, health care providers and others.

Board chairman Phil Stinnett told the board that the requests far exceed the amount of money that is available. He asked the board to decide which applications complied with requirements of the fund in determining which applicants should be asked to give further information about their proposals. The fund’s provisions are to make money available for services or items related to tornado recovery or relief, or for disaster preparedness. The proposals that are funded also are to be those that no other government entity, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will cover.

The city’s finance director, Leslie Jones, told board members that the fund was set up in response to donors who said they wanted to give money to a local fund instead of the American Red Cross “because it would not stay local.”

She said she called the Red Cross shortly after the tornado to find out details of how money collected for Joplin would be distributed and used, and to coordinate relief services with representatives of the organization. “They would not give me a clue” as to how donations intended for Joplin would be used, she said.

City Manager Mark Rohr added that local donors said they wanted their money to go to a fund that would have local control.

Jones said some donors made comments that money given in Joplin’s name “would not stay local.”

After the meeting, Jones said she was not criticizing the work done by the Red Cross. “They do good work,” she said. “We just need to evaluate how to spend that (First Response Fund) money. It makes it difficult when we don’t know what the Red Cross is going to do.”

K. Nigel Holderby, chief communications officer for the American Red Cross, Southern Missouri Region, said earlier that $6 million designated for Joplin was received, and that nearly $7 million will be spent in Joplin by the time long-term recovery needs are added to the organization’s services.

Asked on Thursday if the Red Cross believes there is more information to provide to officials after an emergency, Holderby said: “The Red Cross works very hard to communicate with all of our disaster relief partners before, during and after an incident. Throughout a disaster, we routinely update the public, donors and partners about how we’re helping victims and future plans.” She said a report was released publicly one month after the tornado on the services being provided then.

Asked if there is a policy on sharing information about where donations are spent, she said: “Donations made in support of a specific disaster will be used for that disaster. The Red Cross is committed to honoring the intentions of its donors and will use all disaster-designated funds for the disaster program. In the rare case where donations exceed the cost of disaster response, donations will be used to prepare for and respond to disasters that are occurring simultaneously today or will happen tomorrow.”

The Red Cross is among the applicants that the board agreed to consider. It requested $77,000 for conducting preparedness and recovery seminars.

The local board’s work to further consider the applications will continue on June 21, when oral presentations will begin to be heard. Those who were not selected will receive a letter to that effect. Some were not chosen because board members did not think the proposals met the purposes designated by the fund’s bylaws or because there were omissions in the applications that did permit the board to evaluate whether they met the requirements.

Stinnett was asked if the board must grant the full amount of the requests submitted. He said the board does not have to fund the full amount and will have to weigh how to award the grants within the $350,000 that is to be distributed this time.

Proposals to be heard:

• Area Agency on Aging: $40,000 to replace a Meals on Wheels delivery truck destroyed by the storm.

• Ozark Center: $94,000 to fund a help line via online chat and texting for students at all Joplin schools, public and private.

• Salvation Army: $159,162 to add more disaster case manager positions, and pay utilities and rent for disaster case management services.

• Independent Living Center: $8,000 for education and devices that will help disabled people be prepared for emergencies, and a separate request for $6,000 for emergency supplies.

• Boys & Girls Club of Joplin: $70,000 to replace a gymnasium floor that was used to store disaster supplies.

• Freeman Health System: $11,138 for portable light towers that can be used during medical procedures in emergencies.

• Rebuild Joplin/St. Bernard Project: $210,000 for staff, benefits, building materials and land purchases to build 100 houses. The organization has secured $2.4 million in funding and pledges for that project. Grants for $1.75 million already have been made from other tornado funds to the Long-Term Recovery Committee and Rebuild Joplin.

• Legal Aid of Western Missouri: $30,570 for legal services for low-income people with legal problems resulting from the tornado.

• Arc of the Ozarks: $50,000 toward construction of a duplex for displaced disabled residents.

• Economic Security Corp. of Southwest Missouri: $8,500 to replace playground equipment at Head Start.

• Joplin Family Y: $36,509 for services for children with emotional trauma caused by the tornado.

• City of Joplin: $250,000 to partially reimburse residents for safe rooms.

• Jasper County Sheltered Facilities: $65,850 for safe rooms at client living sites.

• Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks: $6,285 for program expenses.

• Joplin Family Worship Center: $240,064 for staff, a box truck and supplies for tornado recovery outreach.

• Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity: $60,000 to pay for a lot and construction of a home.

• Joplin Area Long-Term Recovery Committee: $100,000 for furnishings, appliances and unmet needs of tornado survivors through disaster case management.

• American Red Cross: $77,000 for staff and materials to conduct disaster preparedness and recovery seminars.

• Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri: $50,000 for safe rooms and appliances for clients.

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