The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Mike Pound

May 27, 2011

Mike Pound: Helping hands help restore hope

JOPLIN, Mo. — Late Thursday afternoon, I was about to take back what I wrote earlier in the week about that whole “hope” thing.

Bad news seemed to be everywhere on Thursday. Making matters worse, Jeff Lehr, our crime reporter, received some police reports about folks who had been arrested for alleged looting. By the way, just a piece of advice: If you get caught looting, you probably should go ahead and plead guilty. I don’t think you want to face a jury trial.

You can do what you want. I’m just saying.

Thursday was one of those days when hope seemed to be buried deeper than it had been buried in quite a while.

On Friday morning, I drove out to East 20th Street, one of the areas hit hardest by Sunday’s tornado, determined to find something to make me feel better. Something to remind me that hope is still around. It took me about two minutes.

As I got out of my car, I saw six people walking toward me. They didn’t look like area residents. They had a sort of fresh-faced energy to them. The sort of energy that homeowners in that part of town have long since exhausted.

So I stopped the six people and asked them if they were volunteers. There said they were. I asked them if they were from around here. They said they weren’t.

Katy Jones told me that she and her children, Mariah and Garrett, along with their friend Lauren Bargas, were from Lebanon. They were joined by Shannon and Joseph Janowski from Walnut Grove.

Katy said they weren’t with any sort of organized relief effort.

“We just wanted to help,” she said.

Katy said they had been in Joplin for two days. Basically, they had been walking through the neighborhood offering their help.

“Most them, at first, say, ‘No, I’m good.’ But then, when we persist, they let us help carry stuff out for them,” she said.

Already on Friday morning, the group had helped a woman pack up salvageable items from her kitchen and helped a man clean out his garage.

“We also helped a guy load furniture onto a trailer, then hitched a ride to where he took the furniture and helped him unload it,” Katy said.

While we were chatting, a car with three people in it stopped. The driver asked us if we needed water or something to eat.

“No, we’re OK,” Katy said. “We’re volunteers.”

“So are we,” the guy in the car said.

Hope was beginning to rear its head.

The folks in the car were from Northwest Arkansas. They were helping other volunteers from Calvary Baptist Church deliver food and water to tornado victims. After chatting with us for a few minutes, the people in the car drove on down the road. I thanked Katy and her group and continued walking up the street.

I immediately met up with three people carrying blue canvas Wal-Mart bags filled with supplies. They also were from Northwest Arkansas. In their bags were bottles of water, snacks, basic medical supplies, flashlights, batteries and clothes. Like the other folks I ran into, they just wanted to do something to help.

I think that’s something.

All the volunteers with whom I spoke Friday told me that most of the residents they ran into, at first, were reluctant to accept help.

I told them that sounded about right.

When I got into my car and headed off to my next destination, I decided that maybe there really was something to that whole “hope” thing I wrote about earlier this week. I guess that hope is harder to find some days than others.

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Tornado: Mike Pound