The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Columns

July 10, 2011

Rich Brown: Ozark Christian extending helping hand long after tornado’s impact

JOPLIN, Mo. — Many members of the Ozark Christian College family have counted their blessings in surviving the terribly destructive May 22 tornado in Joplin, but they haven’t stopped there.

From day one, since the tornado touched down, OCC has epitomized the essence of Christian love by turning its campus into a giant relief station, welcoming victims and volunteers alike.

The college lost no time after the storm in throwing open its doors to house at least 11 displaced families and dozens of current and former students from OCC. But that marked a beginning to what was to come.

The OCC multipurpose building has been turned into the American Red Cross Command Center. Hundreds of volunteers continue to fill the gym each day.

Dormitories and the cafeteria have been opened to volunteer work groups, structural engineers and Missouri Gas Energy personnel, with showers, beds and breakfasts provided free.

As the Joplin Family Y’s daytime childcare facility became flooded with displaced children, the college opened its Missions Building as an overflow site for them. OCC even provided a temporary office for a Christian doctor, whose work site was wiped out.

With the tornado destroying two churches, St. Paul’s United Methodist and Blendville Christian, OCC has provided a place of worship each week and will continue to do so until their sanctuaries are rebuilt.

All provisions have been made out of Christian love with no costs whatsoever to the recipients.

“We are convinced it is a good and right thing for us to do as members of a community in crisis,” said Greg Hafer, executive vice president at Ozark. “It is something we are able to do because of the goodness and faithfulness of our great God and the goodness and faithfulness of the extended Ozark Christian College family.

“In addition to providing facilities, we want our personnel to make every effort to serve those who are using the campus. We hope that this second-mile service can be a blessing to the community at large and that it will bear witness to the grace and goodness of our Lord Jesus.”

Faculty and staff members were permitted to leave their posts the first two weeks following the storm to help victims.

One of the biggest ways to help was to provide a place of refuge for those who lost their homes in the devastation. None set a better example than OCC President Matt Proctor. Even though the Proctor family is composed of eight members, they didn’t hesitate in taking in 14 more, including one family of 11.

Proctor and his wife, Katie, had a somewhat harrowing experience of their own on the night the tornado touched down. The Proctors were on a church outing with the children’s choir at a park in southwest Joplin when the sirens sounded. With 25 children loaded into vehicles, they left to find shelter, not knowing they were driving right into the tornado’s path.

Their caravan was forced to turn around when a large tree crashed within inches of their lead vehicle. They turned into the next driveway they could find. Racing to the house, they banged on the front door and were quickly greeted by an elderly couple, who ushered all to safety in their basement.

The Proctors found out later that if they had continued on that path, it could have been fatal. The twister’s first fatalities were a few hundred yards beyond where the tree had forced them to turn around.

The Proctors are not the only ones from OCC to have a close brush with disaster. Librarian John Hunter, his wife and granddaughter were about to have dinner on the night of May 22 when they heard the sirens. Taking cover in the bathtub, they held on for dear life.

“It was as if a giant were pounding the house with his fist,” Hunter would later write. “The swirling wind caused the entire house to shake and start to fall apart. The roof soon disappeared, throwing ceiling sheet rock and two-by-fours on top of my head.”

After the storm subsided, Hunter said he cleared enough debris to open the bathroom door. What greeted him was one remaining wall with a single painting still miraculously untouched. The painting, by Webb City artist Jack Dawson, bore the title “Peace in the Midst of the Storm.”

In addition to the current OCC family going the extra mile to aid tornado victims and volunteers, former employees, such as Ken Idleman, have stepped in, too.

Idleman, longtime OCC president before Proctor, took part in raising $50,000 for tornado relief at Crossroads Christian Church in Newburgh, Ind., where he is senior minister. About 135 workers from that church have been in Joplin this week repairing homes.

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Tornado: Columns
  • Premier Turbines plant in Neosho to close, 80 jobs lost

    Premier Turbines will close its Neosho plant some time in early 2015.
    Chris Pratt, director of communications for Dallas Airmotive, which has owned the plant since 2003, said 80 jobs will be cut.

    June 26, 2014

  • Susan Redden: McCaskill praises Joplin cooperation

    At least two things she saw in Joplin need to be replicated in Washington, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said during a visit last week.
    A strong spirit of cooperation is driving Joplin’s rebuilding, she said. And,  the senator said there is a realization “that federal programs have a place.”

    August 28, 2011

  • Mark Rohr, guest columnist: Miracle of the human spirit ever-pervasive since tornado

    Monday marks 100 days since the worst tornado in our country in the past 70 years tore through our community, leaving lost lives and destroyed property in its wake. As I have said before, that fateful day in late May will be the defining moment in all of our lives whether we want it to be or not.

    August 28, 2011

  • Ron Richard, guest columnist: Partnership can spur recovery

    The tornado that ravaged Joplin and the flooding affecting Missouri River towns and businesses are both human and economic tragedies.

    August 28, 2011

  • Wally Kennedy: Flocks expected for Chick-fil-A opening

    The stocking of the Chick-fil-A restaurant at 2127 S. Range Line Road is under way in preparation for a grand reopening on Thursday. The restaurant was among 25 or so eateries on Main Street and Range Line Road that were destroyed by the May 22 tornado.

    August 27, 2011

  • Susan Redden: State officials argue about disaster money

    Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is under fire from two different fronts, both relating to plans for a special legislative session in which the Joplin tornado and its economic impact will most certainly be a topic.

    August 21, 2011

  • Wally Kennedy: Walgreen’s to reopen both stores Monday

    Monday will be a big day for two of the three stores that Walgreen’s operates in Joplin. The Walgreen’s at 20th and Main streets sustained significant damage on May 22. It was at the north edge of the tornado’s damage zone. It has had a major makeover.

    August 20, 2011

  • Aspen Bowman Roger Nomer: Image a ‘revelation’ for photographer

    The sky looked dark, but nothing more unusual than a typical springtime storm.
    I was on duty May 22 at the Globe, and had just finished taking photos of Joplin High School’s graduation when the storm sirens started to sound at Missouri Southern State University.


    August 19, 2011 1 Photo

  • Jo Ellis: Small deeds will make a big impact

    A big, big thanks to all who have called, emailed or written to me saying they want to participate in Nature-Joplin (Nurture a Tree-Urban Reforestation Effort-Joplin) to help Joplin recover from the May 22 tornado that scoured the landscape.

    August 14, 2011

  • Andra Bryan Stefanoni: Safe room will always be reminder of May 22

    The afternoon of May 22, I emailed a story to my editor from my home office just before the tornado sirens sounded in Pittsburg.

    August 14, 2011