JOPLIN, Mo. —
Be it a tie-dyed wristband, a hand-stamped necklace or a heartfelt country song, local residents are flexing their creative muscle when it comes to rebuilding tornado-scarred Joplin.
Proceeds from the sale of these items — all created in the days following the May 22 tornado strike — are being directly donated to various charitable outlets or causes.
And they’ve proven popular. Extremely popular.
Almost as much as the St. Mary’s Catholic cross over on 26th Street or the shattered hulk of St. John’s Regional Medical Center, the “Restore Joplin” logo gracing the front of T-shirts worn by thousands of Joplin residents since May 22 has become yet another iconic image from the disaster.
Designed by artist Bart Paden, the logo features a broken red heart wrapped with a knotted white bandage replacing the “O” in Joplin. At www.restorejoplin.com, a message next to the logo reads: “Meet real needs in Joplin right now by buying really cool stuff.”
“I was sitting here Sunday night after the tornado and I wanted to help,” Paden said. “But I’m not handy with a hammer. Joplin doesn’t want me out there (hammering) — I’d do more damage. But I push pixels for a living, and I wanted to help in that way. ‘Restore Joplin’ was birthed out of that.”
The original “Restore Joplin” T-shirt sold for $20, with all proceeds from the sale of the shirts distributed “to meet the immediate needs of the individuals and organizations in Joplin,” it reads on the website.
“That’s money today. Money right now. Not money (coming to Joplin) in a few months,” Paden said.
At last count, Paden has sold 3,700 shirts. More orders continue to pour in, some as far away as Alaska and Ireland. From those sales, more than $35,000 has been collected.
“The response has been incredible,” Paden said. “I’ve been very humbled. I just wanted to do something to help, maybe put a few hundred dollars into (someone’s) hand. We already have $35,000. It’s over the top.”
Paden has also added an “I ‘Heart’ Joplin” tank top for women ($20), and a “Joplin Strong” design with a clenched fist and the words “faith, hope and love” that sells for $25 and was designed by Joplin’s Jason Wakefield. There’s also a second “Restore Joplin” logo design made by Paden as a tribute to the Joplin School District and its teachers.
“I wanted to reach out and see what we could do to help (them),” Paden said.
And he has contacted other interested artists who, down the road, will design logos that will be featured on additional T-shirts added to the ever-expanding product line found on the website.
Local printing shops are designing the T-shirts, “so all the money stays here in Joplin,” Paden said.
T-shirts can be purchased at Mystery Church, Watered Gardens, The Bridge, the Freeman Health Systems gift shop and the Christ of Church of Joplin.
And when will it end?
“We’ll do this as long as it takes for the bandage to come off that heart,” Paden said.
Another popular T-shirt is the “Joplin’s Heart Will Sing Again!” — celebrating the spirit of Joplin and helping tornado victims.
T-shirts can be ordered at www.joplinsingagainshirt.com for $25. From each sale, $15 is donated to the Southwest Missouri Joplin Tornado First Response Fund, which helps Joplin residents, city and businesses with immediate needs not covered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration or personal insurance.
Many of these T-shirts were seen during President Barack Obama’s visit to Missouri Southern State University for the memorial service on May 29.
The T-shirt and the logo it displays was inspired by the song “Sing Again,” penned and performed by Mark Laperle, who lives in Bedford, Va. In an email describing the song, Laperle wrote, “The story of devastation and loss from Joplin has not gone unnoticed. I have no doubt there are literally millions of Christians across America praying for you.”
City Manager Mark Rohr responded by thanking the singer, saying, “It is a truly a tribute to the people who have lost their lives, and all those who have been affected by this disaster.”