The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 24, 2013

Groups helping with Joplin’s long-term recovery celebrate ‘job well done’

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.”

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