The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

May 26, 2012

About $39 million given to major funds for Joplin’s storm recovery

— A 4-year-old Ohio boy sent $200 he raised from selling cups of lemonade for a quarter.

A Missouri-born singer donated $130,000 from the auction of her 1959 Mercedes convertible.

The United Arab Emirates reached out through its U.S. ambassador and gave $5 million just this month to Mercy Hospital Joplin for rebuilding, and that was on top of a previous $1 million commitment to the Joplin school system for laptops.

These are among the thousands of donations that have poured in from around the world since the May 22, 2011, tornado. The donations — from coins dropped in buckets to seven-figure checks — are still coming, even a year later. Just last week, the General Mills Foundation gave $100,000 to the Joplin school system to help rebuild East Middle School and the adjacent elementary.

In the past year, about $39 million in contributions and pledges have been received by many of the major organizations providing front-line assistance to tornado victims and those planning Joplin’s comeback. The calculation, which is based on estimates from officials of those groups, includes:

• Community Foundation of the Ozarks/Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri: $9,451,869 received; $3,834,651 spent.

• American Red Cross: $6 million received; $5 million spent to date, with projected total costs including ongoing long-term efforts estimated at $7 million.

• Salvation Army: $5 million received; $1.5 million spent.

• United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas: $1,672,798 received; $1,417,185 spent.

• Joplin Tomorrow Fund and Business Recovery Fund: $2.2 million received, much of which is left for business recovery.

• Between them, Joplin’s two hospitals have received $6.75 million for rebuilding and for employee needs. About $1.75 million has been spent. The largest donation of $5 million is to be used for rebuilding Mercy Hospital Joplin.

• The Joplin School District has received about $8 million, of which nearly $2.5 million has been spent. Much of the rest is designated for rebuilding — which kicked off last week — and related costs. (This includes $297,000 the foundations have collected for the school district.)

While the larger organizations attract the spotlight, countless millions of dollars also have been donated to churches, church charities and smaller agencies engaged in the recovery.

And the tens of thousands of volunteers who came to Joplin in the past year have spent untold millions on travel, housing, food and other expenses, which also are not part of the total.

Among other things, the money provided food, clothing and transportation to storm victims, computers and band uniforms for Joplin school children, therapy to help storm victims cope with grief and fear, and salaries for caseworkers to help residents navigate the tangle of government assistance. It also helped rebuild homes and provided weather radios for the community.

“People saw what had happened, and they gave from the heart,” said Michelle Ducre, director of Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri. “We are committed to making sure the money makes the greatest impact.”


The Community Foundation of the Ozarks and its affiliate, the Joplin-based Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, oversee many of the donations that have been channeled into 22 separate funds.

The two foundations waived all administrative fees for funds they are servicing, said Louise Knauer, spokeswoman for CFO.

Eight of those funds have been established by Joplin-area employers such as Leggett & Platt and LaBarge to help cover the unmet needs of their workers. Their donations, while not public, are included in the $9.45 million total.

Each entity makes its own decisions on distributing those funds, Knauer said. Other funds support everything from replanting trees to rebuilding parks.

Among the funds managed by the foundations are the Joplin Schools Recovery Fund and Joplin Tornado First Response Fund. The latter is money available for the city of Joplin. The fund has $808,764 in it, of which more than $100,000 has been spent, much of that to provide weather radios for area residents. A city board makes decisions about allocations from the Tornado First Response Fund.

CFO/CFSWMO also established a separate fund of its own the morning after the EF-5 tornado. Known as the Joplin Recovery Fund, it seeks to address the needs of nonprofits serving the Joplin area as they work on recovery and rebuilding efforts, Knauer said.

That fund had received 678 gifts through May 8, ranging from $5 to $1.5 million, Knauer said. A foundation created by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt gave $500,000 to the Joplin Recovery Fund for long-term recovery efforts. Pitt, whose mother is a Joplin High School graduate, said in a statement at the time: “Having spent much of my childhood there, I know these people to be hardworking, humble and especially resilient.”

Thirty grants totaling $2.43 million have been awarded from the $3,750,292 the fund has collected, she said. Most of that went for home rebuilding through groups such as Rebuild Joplin and Habitat for Humanity.

Other money went to Lafayette House, which accepted a $100,000 grant from the Joplin Recovery Fund this spring to hire a care coordinator and a family therapist to assist women at the shelter. It also received a separate $100,000 grant from Leggett & Platt Inc. to purchase furniture and flooring. The two grants were badly needed, said Louise Secker, director of community services for Lafayette House. There has been an estimated 40 percent increase in the number of women arriving at the shelter since the tornado, and those women are staying longer and have greater needs, she said. Many of the women had no other place to go after the tornado destroyed their homes.

“We were like, ‘Oh my goodness,’” Secker said. “After the tornado, we were not sure whether we would make it through the summer. This has just been amazing.”

Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri recently received a grant for $42,374.50 from the Joplin Recovery Fund to hire its 10th case manager to help storm victims. The grant covers the case manager’s salary and benefits for one year.

“We’re seeing people come in now who initially thought that they could take care of their needs on their own,” said Maura Taylor, executive director of Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri. “It’s a year later, and they’re not doing very well.”

Case managers help storm victims with everything from insurance claims and government assistance to counseling referrals.

Using donations to hire case managers makes sense, Ducre said. They are critical to the recovery process because they help to ensure people get the help they need while avoiding duplication of services.

“They look at the whole family and the whole person,” she said.

Knauer said that while some of the funds still have money in them, it is money that is dedicated or spoken for, but with an eye on the needs of the city and its residents after FEMA money and insurance payments have played out.

“One of our goals is to focus on long-term recovery. That is a period of years,” she said.


The American Red Cross has received an estimated $6 million that is designated specifically for Joplin tornado response, said K. Nigel Holderby, chief communications officer for American Red Cross, Southern Missouri Region. Donations arrived via text, check, phone and the Internet. Donors were from all corners of the United States, as well as Japan, Sweden, Germany and Canada, she said.

Holderby estimates the Red Cross will spend nearly $7 million in Joplin, including the immediate response and long-term recovery efforts.

It gave shelter to people who lost their homes, had emergency response vehicles driving through communities to deliver food, cleanup kits and comfort kits. It also gave $50,000 to purchase weather radios after a survey found three in five residents did not have one, Holderby said.

An average of 9 cents of every dollar donated is used to support general operations to keep the Red Cross running, such as information technology, fundraising, finance, human resources and communications, she said.

Lt. James Curry said the Salvation Army has spent about $1.5 million of the $5 million in donations it received in the aftermath of the tornado. At its peak, some 10,000 meals were being served each day. Like the Red Cross, the bulk of the money has been used to provide basic necessities, housing, transportation, as well as medical and emotional care. The Salvation Army puts every dollar received back into the community, Curry said.

The Salvation Army and Red Cross also are working with Joplin Long Term Recovery Committee. The estimated $3.5 million that remains in the Salvation Army fund will be used for that effort, Curry said.

“Everyone’s goal is to create the best vision for the future that’s possible,” he said. “There has been tremendous cooperation on all fronts.”

Within hours of the tornado, a board member of Heart of Missouri United Way in Columbia, Mo., had created the “Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery” Facebook page. The effort, in partnership with United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas, has received more than $1.6 million in pledges. It is giving 100 percent of the proceeds to tornado recovery.

It has spent about $1.4 million on everything from hiring paralegals to assisting tornado victims to funding Habitat for Humanity’s work to replace lost homes.


While many agencies provide vital assistance to individuals and the community, the Joplin Tomorrow Fund and the Business Recovery Fund are concentrating on the business sector. Of the more than 550 businesses that were destroyed or damaged, 446, or about 81 percent, have reopened.

Dwight Douglas, who serves as chairman of the Joplin Tomorrow Fund, said it is able to be more flexible and generous in lending working capital to businesses than the U.S. Small Business Administration rules.

If Joplin is to fully recover from the tornado, it must create a vibrant business environment with employment opportunities and the goods and services that residents want and need, Douglas said. That is why the Joplin Tomorrow Fund is seeking to raise $10 million to restore the business community.

The fund got its start with a $500,000 grant from the Danforth Foundation that was personally delivered to the community by former U.S. Sen. John Danforth five days after of the tornado.

The fund will make both revolving loans and equity investments as deemed fit by a board of five Joplin business leaders, who are serving without compensation.

“Our mission is to fund business loans to those demonstrating a solid business plan to grow the business and to create new jobs,” Douglas said of the Joplin Tomorrow Fund.

It already has approved loans valued at $300,000, he said. Among the recipients is Southtown Cleaners and Alternations, 2630 S. Main St., which was destroyed on May 22 and used a $30,000 loan to start an in-house laundry to complement its dry cleaning business.

Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 S. Main St., wasn’t a victim of the storm but used a $40,000 Joplin Tomorrow Fund loan to buy a gas-fired kiln and other equipment to open the teaching clay studio and fine arts center. Between the two businesses, a total of four new jobs that didn’t exist before the tornado will be created, Douglas said.

Heather Grills, owner of Phoenix Fired Art, said the loan allowed her to fulfill her dream of opening a professional level studio in Joplin. In addition to offering classes and space for artists to work, the studio serves as a venue for artists to sell their work, which brings money into the city, she said.

“I wanted us to have a place like they have in big cities,” Grills said. “We have people from California and other states who are here to volunteer, and they walk in and say, ‘This is a cool place.’”

The chamber also has a separate Business Recovery Fund, which has received more than $700,000. While the Joplin Tomorrow Fund is for businesses that are adding jobs, even those that were not directly affected by the tornado, the Business Recovery Fund is for businesses that need help rebuilding, but are not necessarily adding workers.

To date, about $700,000 has been collected, according to Rob O’Brian, chamber president. Some of it is restricted for purposes other than loans, such as offering counseling, but The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation recently made $200,000 available for businesses.


St. John’s Regional Medical Center was among the 8,000 buildings destroyed by the tornado. Officials quickly pledged to spend $1 billion on temporary and permanent structures, as well as continuing to pay its employees.

Nearly $1 million poured in to assist the 290 workers who were directly affected by the tornado, said Shelly Hunter, chief financial officer of St. John’s Regional Medical Center. Employees received $500 in immediate relief to help with transportation, housing, furniture and other necessities. They also were eligible to apply for additional money from the employee fund administered by Mercy, which owns the hospital.

Freeman Health System, where thousands of people were treated in the hours and days after the storm, saw its employee relief fund grow to $741,850 in the months following the tornado as people from across Missouri opened their hearts and their wallets to help Joplin health care workers, said Christen Stark, Freeman media relations coordinator. Some 475 employees and volunteers have received $724,700 from the fund to assist with finding housing, transportation and other personal needs, she said.

Meanwhile, Mercy officials have been working with insurance adjusters, FEMA and others agencies to develop a plan to rebuild the hospital. They have not formally kicked off a fundraising campaign, but it didn’t stop the United Arab Emirates from delivering a $5 million donation May 18 to fund the new hospital’s first neonatal intensive care unit.

Yousef Al Otaiba, ambassador to the United States, told Mercy president and chief executive officer Lynn Britton that he not only admired Mercy’s commitment to rebuild, but he appreciated the opportunity to ensure that Joplin would benefit from improved health care as a part of its revival.

“The ambassador made clear in our conversation that he understands how health care is crucial to a stable and thriving community,” Britton said.


Celebrities also were among those who boosted the school recovery effort. Singer Sheryl Crow donated proceeds from the auction of her vintage white Mercedes 190SL Roadster to the Joplin Schools Recovery Fund, which is one of the 22 funds administered through The Community Foundation of the Ozarks and the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri. Crow, who grew up in the small Missouri Bootheel town of Kennett, was a schoolteacher before becoming famous. An anonymous donor matched the donation.

That is just one of several funds benefiting the Joplin School District since May 22.

The Tornado Relief Fund has received $523,905.55 as of April 30, of which $279,604.79 has been spent. It is for staff, students and their families who are affected by the tornado. Superintendent C.J. Huff has said the money was used to help the families of students and staff get back on their feet.

The district’s Bright Futures Fund, which includes the Adopt-A-Classroom, Adopt-an-Eagle and Eagle Angel Fund, received $1,294,560.82 for tornado relief. Of that, $733,705.85 has been spent, according to the district. The Bright Futures program, which was created before the storm, is aimed at helping students meet basic needs, such as food and clothing, whether they were affected by the storm or not.

The Joplin Schools Recovery Fund, which is under the umbrella of the foundations, has received $297,314. Those funds are included in the total for Joplin Schools Foundation, which has received a total of $6.1 million for tornado relief.

In all, nearly $8 million has been donated to the district for various causes, according to Kim Vann, director of community development. The district has spent a total of $2,471,671.60, including the $1 million given by the United Arab Emirates for laptops and the $500,000 that was raised in matching money, but much of the rest is also committed. For example, $1,770,471.85 in donations is specifically designated to help rebuild schools.

Other money in the funds also is designated for such things as choir robes, for example, or technology, that will be acquired as the schools are brought back online.

The Joplin Schools Foundation also used $30,000 for a clerical position within the Bright Futures department to help with the volume of donations after the tornado. District officials say this is their only administrative cost so far.

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