The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

April 22, 2012

Spirit of residents, volunteers lauded as rebuilding continues

By Jim Henry

JOPLIN, Mo. — Eleven months after the May 22 tornado, the spirit of volunteers continues through Joplin’s rebuilding efforts.

“I would say volunteer interest is still incredibly high,” Scott Clayton, executive director of Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, said last week.

“There are a lot of times where unskilled labor can assist, and that’s going to be great,” Clayton said. “But if you’re a framer, if you have some kind of professional skills and you’re looking to help Habitat, give us a call. We’d like to put you to work.

“After the tornado, a lot of people were pretty much taken aback about what happened to our city. Slowly but surely, through months of organization and thousands of good people, we’re in the stage now where we need to build. Habitat for Humanity will be building a lot more houses than we ever have before, but that’s what our role is, and we’re prepared to meet that with the partnerships of so many people. We’re excited, and God willing, we’re going to have a tremendous amount of production.”

Clayton was working at 24th Street and Wall Avenue last Wednesday when Energizer and Habitat for Humanity launched a 13-city tour in which volunteers will donate more than $350,000 and 1,000 hours. Special guests in Joplin were a 10-foot tall, pink Energizer Bunny and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr., who became known as baseball’s Energizer Bunny while breaking major league baseball’s consecutive game streak in the 1990s.

Ripken and Energizer’s “bunny brigade” worked on a home, and the volunteers later canvassed the neighborhood and distributed home power kits that included tips and products promoting energy efficiency.

Elaine Sosnowski, general manager of Energizer lighting products, noticed a big difference in Joplin from last July, when she came from St. Louis to assist with cleanup efforts.

“What I saw back then was there was a lot of cleanup going on,” she said. “What I saw (Wednesday) that was very different was it was rebuilding.

“This feels like the rebirth. You can still see what had happened, but the environment and the whole atmosphere feels so much more positive. You see that it’s flat, but it’s like OK, we’ve brushed away the old and the bad, and we’re building on this fertile ground for the future.”

Ripken became involved with Energizer six years ago and became the company’s first inductee into the Energizer Bunny Hall of Fame, which honors individuals for exceptional community service.

Last November, Ripken went to Japan to conduct baseball and softball clinics, and he saw the damage caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

“I had a chance to witness the scale of devastation and the way it affected the Japanese people,” he said. “There is a similarity to this here. You couldn’t fathom the devastation until you’ve been here, and this is almost a year later.

“But I’m still amazed at the human spirit. The human spirit says: ‘OK, stuff happens. It was a horrible thing, but let’s move on and let’s rebuild.’”

‘A real need’

“WE’RE GOING TO DO OUR BEST to get everybody involved with working, but I would say if we had a real need, it would be the more skilled labor we could get would be tremendous,” said Scott Clayton, executive director of Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity.