Renee White’s final words to members of the Long-Term Recovery Committee of Joplin were those of praise.
“Job well done,” said White, chairwoman of the committee. “Job well done in so many ways.”
The committee, boasting a membership of more than 150 service agencies, organizations and faith-based groups as well as more than 100 individuals, was officially dissolved Thursday, nearly 2 1/2 years after the May 2011 tornado. It was created in June 2011 with the objective of assisting tornado survivors with their disaster-related unmet needs.
White, manager of Project Hope in the Joplin School District, said members of the committee have collectively helped more than 1,300 families get back into housing after the tornado, and also provided assistance for residents’ emotional and spiritual needs.
“We have helped endeavor to make Joplin a place where people really care about each other,” she said. “Whenever there is an adversity, I know these people will step up to do whatever needs to be done.”
Debi Meeds, regional chief executive officer with the American Red Cross and former chairwoman of the committee, said she remembers the first post-tornado meeting, when people and organizations were willingly coming forward to help those in need.
“I think the job of long-term recovery is to help people that were impacted by the tornado to get back to their new normal,” she said. “I really hope that we think not that we (as a committee) are standing down, but that we’re standing back in the COAD, and that we’ll continue this work.”
The COAD, or Jasper County Community Organizations Active in Disaster, is the parent group of the recovery committee. It has previously served Southwest Missouri communities in other disasters, such as tornadoes and ice storms, and stands ready to serve the area in case of future disasters.
Steve Patterson, COAD president and director of missions with the Spring River Baptist Association, said the committee finished its work within three years, although organizers originally thought it could take at least five.
“What’s exciting to me is almost all of the cases that were out there have been taken care of,” he said.
Dan King, of the Joplin Area Ministerial Alliance, said that although the committee has dissolved, the groups and individuals who were part of it remain, waiting to help the community with its next need.
“I think it’s been a combining of different resources and agencies working together to try to affect not only the physical, but also the emotional and spiritual well-being of the community,” he said of the committee’s efforts. “The people are there, and we are very concerned about the long-term effects of the disaster.”
The dissolution of the committee marks another milestone in Joplin’s post-tornado story. As the city has rebuilt, many other organizations, such as AmeriCorps and the Mennonite Disaster Service, also have disbanded locally or pulled out of the community.
But one group — Rebuild Joplin — plans to be active for some time, Executive Director Chad Carson said. In fact, volunteers with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) were working Thursday at a construction site on East 18th Street to help a local resident get back into his home, he said.
“We know that people are still walking into our office, still calling us with needs,” he said. “We’re in the process of planning what the end is for us and what that looks like for the community, but we’re not there yet.”
GROUPS REPRESENTED in the Long-Term Recovery Committee include the city of Joplin, the Joplin School District, College Heights Christian Church, Children’s Haven, AmeriCorps, Abundant Life Church, the Joplin Area Ministerial Alliance, University of Missouri Extension, United Way, Art Feeds, the Joplin Community Clinic, Mercy Hospital Joplin and Freeman Health System, as well as several local and national home construction groups and disaster relief organizations.
The Joplin Long-Term Recovery Committee celebrated nearly 2 1/2 years of post-tornado accomplishments by its member groups at its final meeting Thursday.
The committee includes city, state and federal government agencies, nonprofit organizations and faith-based groups working to find and assist tornado survivors with unmet disaster-related needs in Southwest Missouri.
Among the accomplishments:
• The Spring River Baptist Association provided more than 59,000 meals in the month after the tornado. It also donated $500,000 to disaster relief efforts.
• The Independent Living Center provided emergency assistance to more than 750 families, including the construction of 15 new ramps for individuals using wheelchairs.
• The Joplin Family Worship Center provided more than 100,000 meals and assisted with 715 construction needs.
• The Mennonite Disaster Service helped more than 800 families with construction needs.
• Legal Aid of Western Missouri and Equal Justice Works helped 418 clients with legal needs after the tornado.
• Ozark Center and Healing Joplin assisted 48,380 people with disaster-related mental health needs.
• The American Red Cross provided direct case-management assistance to 300 families, while the Salvation Army provided case-management services to more than 400 clients.
• The Area Agency on Aging helped 160 senior citizens with nearly $80,000 from the Support Joplin Seniors Tornado Relief Fund.
• The Alliance of Southwest Missouri provided 500 sessions of play therapy, transportation assistance to 279 clients and housing assistance to 31 families.
• Catholic Charities of Southern Missouri directly helped 889 families through disaster case management and home construction.
• Samaritan’s Purse completed 15 new homes and seven remodeling projects, and also provided debris removal services for 755 homes.
• Lutheran Family and Children’s Services and Lutheran Disaster Response provided construction assistance and emergency services to thousands of tornado survivors.
• Crosslines Churches of the Joplin Area provided financial and food assistance to thousands of families.
• The Missouri Department of Conservation has planted nearly 10,000 trees in the community since the tornado and has helped 1,429 families with replacement trees.
• The Economic Security Corp. disbursed $1.1 million in grants, and helped 3,517 families with services such as utility and rent payments, mortgage assistance and temporary housing assistance.
• Rebuild Joplin has completed nearly 80 new homes for tornado-affected families.
• Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity has completed 73 houses in the tornado zone, 48 of which were for tornado survivors.
Source: Joplin Long-Term Recovery Committee