The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

July 14, 2011

Rams' Staff Day of Service assists in cleanup in Joplin

There were plenty of handoffs during a Joplin blitz, but it wasn't the football that St. Louis Rams officials were moving.

Rams representatives — mostly front-office staff — partnered with the United Way of Greater St. Louis and AmeriCorps St. Louis for a cleanup day Wednesday in Joplin as part of the franchise's Rams' Staff Day of Service. The staff assists in a selected community service project each month.

"We're thinking of Joplin," Rams Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff said. "We plan to focus on future efforts during the season. We're coordinating with the (Kansas City) Chiefs, who I know have been down here as well. This is something neither of our franchises will forget soon. Hopefully we can inspire other groups throughout the state to come down and contribute. The need is not going away."

One location the group helped clear in Joplin was a tornado-stricken home that bore the words “Thanks” and “Gone with the wind.”

"Seeing it on the news, it's already horrific," said Ray Agnew, retired defensive tackle and current Rams pro scout. "To come out here and see it in person is very emotional. I can only imagine what it would be like to be the person who owned this home. It's very hard to look at."

Demoff said they brought a crew of 87 staff members to Joplin to remove debris, help at the Joplin Family Worship Center and at a call center.

"We started two years ago a program called the Rams' Staff Day of Service," Demoff said. "Each month we shut our building down and the staff goes out and performs a day's worth of community service. Usually, it's at different charities and events throughout St. Louis. Obviously when we saw the news about Joplin, it made natural sense to try to expand the staff service concept to come down here at a future point. Through coordination with the governor's office, AmeriCorps and the United Way, we were able to come down for today.

"We came down for about three to four hours to go to work and help where we can. We realize we're only making a small dent in the need but we're appreciative of the opportunity to come down and help."

Scott Parker, head groundskeeper for the Rams, said they normally help build playgrounds or paint at St. Louis area schools, work in cemeteries or wherever they're needed.

"This is the big news around the town, the state and the country," Parker said. "This is a great way to get outside of the city of St. Louis to help others in the state. It's crazy how big this is and how much has not been done in this amount of time. We had a small tornado that hit near our practice facilities. It was unbelievable to see that but this (Joplin) is a million fold of what that was. I don't know what it had to look like a couple days after that thing ran through here.

"You really don't realize the scope of this until you get down here. The photos really don't do justice on how big this is and how much damage was done. It gives you an idea of how big this was and how it impacted the city. I can't imagine going through this. It's one thing to lose possessions but not having a home to go to is tough. It was hard driving over here."

Parker wasn't the only one surprised by the amount of devastation. Ryan Cliffe, manager of corporate sales and support for the St. Louis Rams, also was shocked.

"I had an expectation coming down here," Cliffe said. "This far exceeded it, definitely in the negative. It's horrible. I can't express myself. I'm speechless. You see it on TV but it's completely different when you see it in person. I can't put it into words. I wish we could do more. Coming down for one day is great but you want to do more. It has been pretty impactful for me. My heart goes out to the people here.

"We're removing debris, putting it into piles so the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can come in and take care of it. We're removing cinder blocks, trash, taking out furniture, and piling it up so they can get in here and get to work fixing the house."

Even Rampage, the Rams' mascot, helped out with debris removal. The Rams' cheerleaders made an appearance as well.

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