JOPLIN, Mo. —
St. Mary’s Catholic Church and its elementary school have received another substantial boost in their efforts to rebuild after the May 2011 tornado: a $300,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri.
The grant was presented to the Rev. Justin Monaghan in a surprise meeting Wednesday at Hardy, Wrestler and Associates, an accounting firm with offices near 24th Street and Jackson Avenue, about two blocks from the site where the church and school once stood.
“I was totally shocked; I had no idea,” said Monaghan, who had expected to meet with the foundation board to answer questions about the grant application. “It was as good a surprise as you can get.”
Stephanie Howard, chairwoman of the foundation’s board of directors, said the grant comes from the Joplin Recovery Fund, which supports mid- and long-term community efforts to rebuild from the tornado.
“We know how vital you (the church and school) are to the community,” she told Monaghan. “This was very, very well-spent.”
The church and school, which were destroyed in the tornado along with the parish center and rectory, are being rebuilt near West 32nd Street and Central City Road. The first phase of construction includes the church and a family life center, classrooms, a media center, kitchen, cafeteria and playground.
Total budgeted expenses for the project are nearly $15.3 million, according to Monaghan. About $14.7 million has been raised, including nearly $3.3 million in pledges from parishioners, nearly $9.5 million from insurance proceeds and $1.2 million from St. Mary’s reserve funds, he said.
The grant from the foundation will help plug the $522,000 gap that currently remains between expenditures and revenues, he said.
“It’s going to be huge because it’s reducing our deficit, probably by about half,” he said.
The 196 students currently enrolled at St. Mary’s Elementary School are in “very cramped quarters” in an old building near McAuley Catholic High School, said Principal Stephen Jones. He said teachers and students are excited about moving into the new school, which is scheduled to open in August.
“I know this is going to be wonderful, wonderful news,” he said of the grant.
Jones said there is “great progress” on the school’s construction. The roofline is beginning to take shape, and prefabricated walls are starting to go up on the site, he said. Construction crews hope to close the structure and begin work on the interior sometime this month, he said.
Monaghan estimated that the school is 30 percent complete. At the nearby church site, workers are finishing the foundation and footings, and expect to begin pouring concrete soon, he said. The church is set to open in December 2014, he said.
Howard said the $300,000 grant is one of the largest awarded since the foundation launched the recovery fund after the tornado. More than $3.2 million in grants have been awarded from the recovery fund to nonprofit organizations in Joplin, Carl Junction and Webb City, including Rebuild Joplin, Children’s Haven, the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity.
She said the foundation is still accepting applications for portions of the $800,000 that remains in the fund.
“Community Foundation is here to help Joplin and whatever Joplin needs,” she said.
THE COMMUNITY FOUNDATION of Southwest Missouri is a not-for-profit affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, which is based in Springfield. In addition to the Joplin Recovery Fund, the foundation also oversaw the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund, which assisted residents and businesses with immediate post-tornado needs not covered by other agencies.