The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 24, 2012

Juvenile system officer organizes group to assist in storm recovery

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
news@joplinglobe.com

JOPLIN, Mo. — April Foulks remembers clearly the day she was told by Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity it would take $50,000 to sponsor a home build. It was almost exactly a year ago.

She thought, “That sounds like a lot. There’s no way we can raise that.”

But she also remembers clearing debris last summer for a co-worker who lived on Grand Avenue and thinking it would take years to clean up the tornado zone.

On both counts, she underestimated a bit.

The tornado zone was clean that fall, and by this fall the group that came to be known as the Justice League had raised $50,000 with which to sponsor the home at 2630 S. Wall Ave.

“It took a golf tournament, dinner, dance and silent auction, and a lot of asking friends and family,” said Foulks, who lives in Webb City and works in the Jasper County Juvenile Court office.

Foulks used to work at the Joplin Police Department, and her husband, Derek Walrod, is a captain with the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department.

They reached out to those they knew in the judicial system and law enforcement in surrounding communities.

“It took everyone knowing someone,” she said.

It also took stepping outside her comfort zone and learning new things.

“Only one of us on the committee had actually ever played golf. I had driven a beer cart at several tournaments, but other than that, we were green,” she said.

The same was true of building a home.

“A group of 15 of us put on the siding,” she said. “There were only two guys and the rest girls, and we had to have a lesson and a prayer in the middle of it because we were making some mistakes. But we laughed and got to know each other, and had a good time.”

There also was a learning curve when it came to scheduling volunteers.

“We might have a group of four needed to put in windows, for example, or tomorrow we’ll need six volunteers to help put soffits in,” she said. “I basically send out an email statewide to everyone connected with justice or law enforcement — every court in the state of Missouri gets a notification. Then I organize those who reply for work days.”

The challenge to managing it all is that this is her busiest time of year as a juvenile officer and as the mother of three sons all involved in fall sports.

But she said she’s gained a lot in return.

“No matter how your life is going, how many stressors you have, you walk away from this at the end of the day and you say, ‘I made a difference that day,’” she said.

Now, she’s focused on passing that feeling on to the juveniles with whom she interacts.

“When they say they don’t have friends or interests in sports or other activities, I’ve encouraged them to stop and look around. There are so many associations, so many nonprofits, and I tell them to take some time and go meet them. I say, ‘You might find there is something inside you that connects with one of those places and what they’re trying to achieve,’” she said.



Involvement

April Foulks’ involvement in Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity led her to joining the organization’s Fund Development Committee, which is planning a 5K race next April and a golf tournament next October.