JOPLIN, Mo. —
Of the 182,044 volunteers to visit Joplin since the tornado three years ago, the 120 or so young people who came to Joplin this week from Kentucky were among the lucky ones.
They got cookies, doughnuts and cake on Tuesday in connection with the second Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service.
Standing outside in the cold next to a house that is being rebuilt at 2730 S. Minnesota Ave., the high school students talked about the spring break trips they have made to Joplin from Crestwood, Ky.
Dominique Gill, who has made three trips to Joplin, said: “The houses are coming back now. That got me to thinking last night about how much time we have spent impacting other people. What happens to them when you leave? What’s the domino effect?”
Gill was among students from three high schools who came to Joplin in eight vans. They are staying at the Sky Ranch in Quapaw, Okla.
Norma Clark, of La Grange, Ky., a chaperon, came to Joplin immediately after the tornado.
“A year ago, there were a lot of slabs. Now, there are neighborhoods,” she said. “It’s awesome to see and great to be a part of it.”
She said she’s finding it more and more difficult to identify the path of the tornado to “newbies” who join the group for the trip.
“If you had not been here before, it would be difficult to tell someone where the tornado went through,” she said. “If you can look at the trees, you can still see the path.”
As for the young people she is overseeing, she said: “They could be on a beach somewhere for spring break. They do not want to be anywhere else but here.”
Joplin Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean joined more than 1,700 mayors across the country for the Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service, a bipartisan effort that highlights the impact of national service in tackling city problems.
Standing outside the Rebuild Joplin house with the volunteers, she said: “When people look and see what volunteers do, we don’t have to look very far.
“You have worked with our city through these past three years in helping us rebuild our community. You have left your mark on the city of Joplin, and we are forever grateful and appreciative of it.”
Colbert-Kean, Councilman Jack Golden, interim City Manager Sam Anselm and members of the city staff worked at the house Tuesday alongside AmeriCorps workers. They helped hang drywall.
Taking a break to read a proclamation to AmeriCorps and Senior Corps representatives in recognition of their service, she said, “I want to officially thank you because there is no way we can repay you.”
Records show that 182,044 volunteers, including those registered through AmeriCorps and from other organizations who have reported hours, have served Joplin and Duquesne since May 22, 2011, logging more than 1.5 million hours of service.
Matthew Holloway, AmeriCorps project manager for Rebuild Joplin, said: “We have had 92 AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members from 27 states spend 10 months here. They have logged 150,000 hours. That’s 17 years of direct service that AmeriCorps has provided to Joplin.”
Rebuild Joplin, which has rebuilt and repaired more than 125 homes, estimates that an additional 60 families still require services.
“National service shows the best of the American spirit — people turning toward problems instead of away, working together to find community solutions,” Colbert-Kean said. “Today, as we thank national service members for their commitment, let us all pledge to do our part to strengthen our city through service and volunteering.”
THE MAYORS DAY OF RECOGNITION for National Service is a nationwide, bipartisan effort to recognize the positive impact of national service in cities, to thank those who serve, and to encourage residents to give back to their communities. The day is sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the National League of Cities, Cities of Service, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.