The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


June 30, 2012

Mizzou returns to Joplin to continue Governor's Challenge work

— A volunteer handed Christine Taylor a cold bottle of water as she sought refuge from the midday sun under a tent near what will be her new house.

She sat down, took a sip from the bottle and said, “I think I’m going to cry.

“The love and the gratitude that we have toward the volunteers is overwhelming,” she said. “There have been people here from all over the world, and I don’t think I’ll forget a one of them.”

On Friday, the volunteers came from the University of Missouri Athletic Department as part of the Governor’s Joplin Challenge to build 35 homes in a devastated area of the city.

As they worked alongside volunteers from Habitat for Humanity, a construction crew that included Athletic Director Mike Alden and backup quarterback Corbin Berkstresser nailed siding on the house that will be occupied by Taylor, husband Larry Fickle and their 7-year-old son, Dalton Fickle.

“Dalton went around and got all their signatures,” Taylor said. “We’re going to have those framed and put in his room. I mean, when we’re sitting at the dinner table eating, these are the people who built our home.”

The crew was directed by Randy Pease of Anderson, who works for R&S Midwest Construction, the general contractor on the project.

“It’s good that people are still coming,” Pease said. “If I had as much energy as they have, I’d be finished by now. It helps a bunch to have people out here to do the stuff that takes so much time to do.”

The family was at a home they rented near 16th Street and Kentucky Avenue when an EF-5 tornado struck Joplin on May 22, 2011. An estimated 7,500 homes were damaged or destroyed.

“Our house was just damaged. It wasn’t a total loss,” Taylor said. “Habitat recognized us as a family in need. We’ve been together 13 years.

“We were in the closet. My husband had his feet against the frame because of all the pressure. And for some reason, Dalton didn’t cry. I think he was just listening.”

Dalton attended Emerson Elementary School, three blocks away, which was heavily damaged and will be rebuilt along with Irving Elementary at the site of the former St. John’s Regional Medical Center at 2727 McClelland Blvd.

“We walked down to see the school, and in his classroom all the windows were blown out,” Taylor said. “Dalton looked at me and said, ‘Mom, this is why it’s going to be bad.’ ”

Dalton was one of the few students chosen to speak with the architects about what the children wanted in their new school, she said.

Since the tornado, Dalton has developed a keen interest in weather, she said. “He has to watch the weather every single day,” she said. “He carries a weather radio around with him all the time.

“We tell him, ‘Dalton, it’s going to be 100 degrees every day,’ but he still wants to check. He knows when the news is on at 5 o’clock and 6 o’clock. He says he’s not scared, just checking.

“He insists on watching Storm Chasers. He even knows what a TIV is. It’s a tornado interception vehicle. Every day he tells the class what the temperature is. They call him the weatherman. He has issues. I feel like he has this inner stress.”

Among those who came to help address the issues in Joplin was head football coach Gary Pinkel, who nailed siding on a nearby home that will be occupied by Jessica Carroll and her daughter, Rhianna, who soon will be 5 years old.

Pinkel said he had worked on Habitat for Humanity projects in Toledo, Ohio and in Columbia, “but nothing of this magnitude. I was here a year ago and there has been a lot of progress made and a lot of progress to go.

“At Missouri, we do community service all the time. You get more from that than anything else. We had 35 players come down here right after this happened. It’s such a tragedy. It brings the best out of people. It’s the American way to help your neighbor.”

Gymnasts Rachel Updike of Olathe, Kan., Taylor Medrea of Britton, Mich., Laura Kappler of Evansville, Ind., and Kelsy Landreth of Mexico, Mo., spent the day installing windows and nailing the siding onto Carroll’s house along with Pinkel and other volunteers.

“That’s what we do every day,” Medrea said. “We work as a team every day.”    

Pinkel wore a gray Mizzou T-shirt with an SEC logo on one sleeve as the Tigers prepare for their first season in the Southeastern Conference. Starting quarterback James Franklin, who worked on Taylor’s house last Friday, likely will be the starter when the Tigers play Southeastern Louisiana on Sept. 1 in Columbia, he said.

Franklin underwent surgery on his shoulder after he was injured during practice last spring.

“He’s a great football player and a great student,” Pinkel said. “He’s doing well, throwing a Nerf ball around. We expect him to be ready to go for the first game.

“Last year, there were more injuries than I’ve ever had as a head coach. There was a sense of urgency that our reserves need to be ready to do.”

One of the reserves who saw extra practice time last spring was Berkstresser, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound redshirt freshman from Lee’s Summit who played against Joplin when he was in high school.

“It was a little tough to get up at 5 a.m.,” Berkstresser said, “but what we can do as athletes to make an impact is amazing.”

Starting tailback Kendial Lawrence said Franklin’s likely return as the team’s quarterback was welcome news.

“He’s a tremendous athlete,” said Lawrence, a 5-9, 195-pound senior from Rockwall, Texas who rushed for 566 yards and five touchdowns last season. “He has a big love for the game. I know he’s eager to get back and he’s working as hard as he can.”

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