By Mike Pound
JOPLIN, Mo. —
In the past month, thousands of people and millions of dollars have poured into the Joplin area to help folks recover from the May 22 tornado.
As someone who has lived and worked in the Joplin area for nearly 30 years, I can’t begin to describe how overwhelming, and how moving, that outpouring of generosity has been and continues to be.
But what I hope doesn’t get lost in all of this is the fact that the folks in Joplin have been doing a pretty good job of helping themselves. I’m not saying we don’t need the outside help. We do. We need lots of it.
The tornado was not the sort of thing that one community can recover from on its own. We need help, and the rest of the country — and the world, for that matter — has responded. For that we will always be grateful.
But that doesn’t change the fact that folks here have been working hard to help themselves, to help their friends, to help their neighbors, to help people they’ve never met.
It’s what we do.
We saw a lot of that in the immediate minutes, hours and days after the storm. Neighbors and passers-by frantically trying to dig people out of demolished homes. Store employees bravely guiding customers to safety. Medical, law enforcement and public safety personnel risking their lives to save the lives of others.
And we continue to see Joplin folks helping Joplin folks to this day. There seems to be this almost unspoken code that basically says, “If we expect help, we first need to help ourselves.”
From 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, the Joplin Association for the Blind will hold its second annual Blind, Blues and BBQ backyard cook-off and cruise-in at the county fairgrounds in Carthage Municipal Park.
When I chatted with the association’s executive director, Stephanie Mann, the other day, I told her I was a bit surprised — given everything that has happened in the past month — that her group was still planning on holding its fundraiser.
Stephanie told me that the association wouldn’t think of not holding the event. The association, she said, needs to raise money to help its some of its clients recover from the tornado. That’s what this year’s Blind, Blues and BBQ event is for, she said.
“We have close to 50 people who were impacted by the storm,” Stephanie said.
Many of those clients, she said, lost things they desperately need to replace, the sorts of things those of us with normal vision don’t even think about.
“We’re helping people who lost magnifiers, travel canes, talking watches, talking clocks and other low-vision devices,” she said.
As part of the fundraiser, the association is sponsoring a non-sanctioned, “fun” chicken and ribs cook-off as well as a chili cook-off. A number of slots in both contests are open, so if you would like to see how your barbecue or chili skills measure up against those of other backyard chefs, you can enter either contest for $25 or both contests for $40. First-, second- and third-place prizes will be awarded in both contests.
If you are more of an eating type than a cooking type, for $5 you can sample the competitors’ food.
There also will be prizes for cruise-in participants, along with door prizes and raffle items.
If you would like to enter the cook-offs or want more information about Blind, Blues and BBQ, you can call the Joplin Association for the Blind at 623-5721.
Even if you aren’t taking part in the cook-offs, you should stop by on Saturday, spend some money and help out.
After all, it’s what we do.