The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

January 26, 2013

Photo project sees response slow to nearly nothing

CARTHAGE, Mo. — No one has claimed the photo of a child napping on a couch. Or of a bridesmaid helping a bride prepare for a wedding. Or the picture of a family in front of a fireplace.

The photos chronicle life’s milestones. These particular photos, though, are without owners.

For now, they’re housed at First Baptist Church in Carthage, where they’ve been cleaned, sorted, labeled and protected since having been lost in the 2011 tornado that hit Joplin and Duquesne. Twenty months later, 22,000 such photos remain.

“It’s really slowed to just a trickle,” said Donna Turner, a church member who for more than a year has coordinated claim days encouraging those affected by the tornado to look through albums or at an online archive.

Within a few months of the tornado, volunteers with the Lost Photos of Joplin Project established a headquarters upstairs at the church. They processed about 35,000 photos found in the tornado’s aftermath — not from just the disaster zone that stretched for miles but from across Southwest Missouri.

For a while they celebrated successes, like returning a batch of 500 at a time to one family, or several packets of photos to another. Twice-monthly claim days held at the Joplin Public Library, Northpark Mall and the church had good turnouts.

Then it slowed.

Turner’s goal at Christmas was to have returned 15,000. She missed it by 1,518.

“Nine people showed up at our last claim day, and we gave back just two photos,” she said. “This week, I sent out 11 photos to people who had identified them online, but the week before that, hardly anything.”

Saturday, only one couple turned out, and took with them just one photo.

Turner anticipates receiving still more photos this week — a delivery to be made by First Baptist Church of Carterville, where members collected photos but didn’t know what to do with them.

Occasionally, individuals browsing through photos online recognize a face and identify a photo as belonging to a friend, family member or acquaintance. The photos are pulled and tucked into manila envelopes with contact information. About 75 of them waited in a plastic tub Saturday for pickup, but no one came.

Volunteers spend hours a day working on the computer or poring over some 30 three-ring binders with copies of the photos, trying to match one set of faces to another.

Upstairs, dozens of boxes are stacked along a wall, awaiting their next home if the photos aren’t identified or claimed. On Oct. 22, they will go to the Joplin Museum Complex for storage.

Among them are a mustached man in camouflage proudly showing off a wild turkey he harvested. And a woman in glasses and checkered pants showing off a goat. A photo of hot rods and a photo of a field of RVs. A photo of three smiling young men dressed in soldiers’ uniforms in the 1940s, and a photo of a young girl in a Mount Vernon basketball uniform in midjump during a pre-game warm-up.

There’s a photo of a Joplin Family YMCA Cardinals youth baseball team, and a photo at Mo-Kan Dragway of a young woman in a dragster marked “Terry Robinson.”

Volunteer Mary McWilliams, who didn’t have much to do at Saturday’s claim day, offered her theory for the lack of interest.

“Some people at the Northpark Mall claim day said they weren’t ready to look yet,” she said. “I guess unless you’ve been through it, you don’t really know.”

Claiming photos

Photos and a master list of names taken from the backs of photos can be found at or on Facebook at Lost Photos of Joplin. Those seeking photos also may call 417-358-8161.

Text Only
Local News
  • 0420earthday.jpg Prairie State Park kicks off Earth Day events

    Prairie State Park began celebrating Earth Day early with an event Saturday that provided a chance for people of all ages to learn more about how they can protect the environment.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Joplin Catholic schools to hold annual spring auction

    The Joplin Area Catholic Schools spring auction will be staged Saturday at the Jack Lawton Webb Convention Center, 5300 S. Range Line Road in Joplin.

    April 19, 2014

  • Wally Kennedy MUG72.jpg Wally Kennedy: Another pizza choice and ice cream on the way

    A new pizza restaurant is coming to the northwest corner of Stone’s Corner in the Village of Airport Drive. Piez is opening this week in a storefront that formerly housed Quincy Magoo’s, 6039 N. Main Street Road, which has been closed for more than two years.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • mike pound_cnhi .jpg Mike Pound: No more hiding Easter eggs or emotions

    Well, that’s a wrap on the Easter egg hunts. For about 15 years we have staged not one, but two Easter egg hunts for our now 16-year-old daughter, Emma.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • 041914 Wedding1_72.jpg VIDEO: Cancer patient walks down aisle in wedding thrown by friends

    A year ago, Schandera Jordan was diagnosed with a rare form cervical cancer. And months after a radical hysterectomy, doctors confirmed the worst: The cancer had spread to her lungs and pancreas.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • r041614giregabby.jpg SLIDE SHOW: Teen with cystic fibrosis finds widespread support

    When the Nevada Show Choir performs its spring show on stage, it’s impossible to pick out the student with cystic fibrosis because there are no outward clues.
    Gabby Gire, 18, is just another performer. She sings, she dances, she smiles for the audience.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo 1 Slideshow

  • Enrollment open for Joplin summer school

    Enrollment is now open for the Joplin school district’s summer school session, which will run Wednesday, June 4, though Tuesday, July 1.

    April 19, 2014

  • r041814capbus4.jpg Funding shortfall could hinder public transportation in Southeast Kansas

    For the past two years, Pittsburg State University sophomore Travis Cook has been using public transportation to get to and from his classes. He began using the bus his freshman year, when he didn’t have a vehicle to drive even to the grocery store — which is said to be the case for many who use the service.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Bruner denied change of venue for murder trial

    Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a change of venue for a defendant charged with fatally shooting an assistant football coach at Missouri Southern State University. The attorney for Jeffrey Bruner claimed pretrial publicity as the reason for seeking a change of venue in Jasper County Circuit Court.

    April 18, 2014

  • Russell family sues city, Joplin police

    Family members of a teenage girl whose suicide a year ago brought them into conflict with police officers and emergency medical technicians are suing the city and the Joplin Police Department. Kevin and Julissa Russell and their son, Brant Russell, are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court. The action filed on the Russells’ behalf by Kansas City attorney Andrew Protzman names the city, the Police Department and Officers Austin Wolf and Tyler Christensen as defendants.

    April 18, 2014

Must Read


Missouri Republicans are considering a new approach to prevent federal agents from enforcing laws the state considers to be infringements on gun rights: barring them from future careers in state law enforcement agencies. Do you think this proposal has merit?

     View Results
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter