The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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June 13, 2012

City of Joplin starts neighborhood assistance program

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin city officials and local organizations are teaming up to expand an Adopt-a-Neighborhood program in which volunteers do chores to clean up or repair neighborhoods, including those outside the tornado zone.

Connie Chrisman, a worker in the city’s community development department, explained the program Wednesday at a public meeting.

She said AmeriCorps workers have been going door-to-door to survey residents about whether they have work that needs to be done such as repairing a roof, mowing, painting, washing windows or other chores in order to assemble a work list that can be used to assign volunteers. The idea is to help people with upkeep of their yards and houses, and public areas such as sidewalks and alleys, to try to prevent them from being cited by code enforcement personnel, or to improve the appearance of the neighborhood.

“A lot of times, people need just a few things done,” Chrisman said of the people city workers have encountered in code enforcement and other city programs. “A lot of senior citizens we’ve worked with over the years cannot mow their yards” or rake leaves in the fall, and they need someone who can do those chores for them.

Each week, representatives of the city and AmeriCorps leaders meet and coordinate the lists of needs so that the work can be given priorities and assigned. The assistance is available across the city, not solely in the tornado zone, though the survey does ask whether the work that needs to be done is related to tornado damage.

In addition to aiding individual households, groups also can help the city with such chores as trimming tree limbs that hang over streets and alleys, painting fireplugs, and other maintenance.

Chrisman explained that groups from churches and faith-based organizations, civic groups, businesses, and Scouting and youth organizations can adopt an area of any size to clean and maintain. Short training sessions need to be held so that volunteers understand limitations and expectations as well as safety rules. For instance, homeowners or renters must sign permission forms before any work can be done on private property, although volunteers can work on rights of way such as streets and alleys without permission.

The city has a tool lending library so that groups may borrow tools if needed. Chrisman may be able to help pay for some supplies for projects in low-income neighborhoods where the city can use grant money for housing repair materials or trash bins. She said those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

Groups are asked to provide quarterly reports on the work they have done so that the city and AmeriCorps do not duplicate assignments on requests for help made by residents and can tabulate the work that is done.

Jesse Hales, disaster relief coordinator for Grace Baptist Church at 32nd Street and Wall Avenue, said the church has signed up to adopt the surrounding neighborhood and is available to do chores for about 900 households in the area.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Hales said of the program. “It’s important for the church to get involved in the community.”

Organizations, families or individuals who want to help may sign up by contacting Chrisman at 417-624-0820, ext. 570. People who have a need for help may contact AmeriCorps at 625-3558.

Donations sought

THE ADOPT-A-NEIGHBORHOOD PROGRAM needs donations of rubber bands, trash bags and office supplies. Pledges for donations may be made by calling Connie Chrisman at 417-624-0820, ext. 570.

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