By Kevin McClintock
The Joplin Globe
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.”
Joplin resident Paula Andrew wanted to help tornado victims and get her two young children involved. That’s how the idea for the “Hope for Joplin” bracelets came about.
She ordered a first batch of 1,000 wristbands in red, pink, yellow and purple and sold each one for $1, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to RebuildJoplin.org.
Those 1,000 bracelets were purchased within days.
“It’s just gotten crazy,” Andrew said.
To help keep pace with orders, she created a Facebook page last week, funneling everyone hoping to purchase one or more of the bracelets to her email, firstname.lastname@example.org. The Facebook page already has 874 friends, and counting.
Each day, Andrews receives hundreds of emails from folks all around the globe wanting to purchase the bracelets. For many people, it’s an easy way for them to donate money to Joplin, even if they live in places like Wisconsin, Colorado and New York.
On Wednesday, she sold a batch of 100 bracelets in just 15 minutes.
She hopes to receive a batch of 2,000 new bracelets by the middle of this week. They are coming in new colors, including orange, lime green and tie-dyed.
So far, sales of the bracelets have generated $1,000 dollars. Andrew said she’ll continue ordering the bracelets and donating 100 percent of all proceeds “as long as people want them.”
Another popular wristband seen in abundance around Joplin is the baby blue “Missouri Hope Tribute” bracelets created and distributed by Joplin’s Mason-Woodard Mortuary and Crematory.
Each band reads: “God is With Us. We Will Rebuild. In Memory of Tornado Victims, May 22, 2011.”
There’s also a message that comes with each band: “Let this band represent the people and the City of Joplin, Missouri, for what we went through, and most importantly the ones we lost. Let this band be our symbol of Hope, Faith, Strength, Resolve & Community.”
The light blue color was selected “for its uniqueness to represent the residents of Joplin.”
“We wanted to create something that Joplin could get behind; something that could be worn every day,” said Mason-Woodard Director Austin Woodard. “This is going to take (a long time to rebuild). It’s not going to be quick. We want everybody not to forget and that we’re all in this together.”
The initial order of 2,500 bracelets lasted just three days. Overall, Woodard has sold 6,500 bracelets. The money is going into one big pot and will eventually be donated to RebuildJoplin.org.
“We had no idea these (bracelets) would be this popular, this huge,” Woodard said. “It’s something people can hold on to for a long time.”
To order the bracelets, call 781-1711.
A mother and daughter business, Shannie Designs LLC, is donating $5 for each sale of its homemade, hand-stamped necklaces to the Joplin School District’s Children’s Tornado Relief Fund.
“This is just something we wanted to do,” said Shannon Rhinehart Neill, who teaches at South Middle School and also is head coach of the Joplin High School Lady Eagles golf team. Being a teacher, she said, “seeing how many people were affected by all this, we just wanted to do something to help.”
She and her mother, Jane Rhinehart, have designed two necklaces: One says “Hope for Joplin” and the other says “Pray for Joplin.” Each necklace, she said, takes about an hour to create.
“They’re sterling silver, and each letter is hand stamped — that’s the unique part of this, that each one will be different. No two creations are alike.”
Aside from Virginia’s Mark Laperle, there’s also “Songs for Joplin,” created by Zach Becker of St. Louis. He used a music sampler to benefit relief efforts in Joplin. The album he made includes many local St. Louis artists (such as Union Tree Review, Sleepy Kitty, Beth Bombara) as well as others from Nashville and Los Angeles.
It was released on Noisetrade on June 3 and has already achieved over 400 downloads and $1,300 in donations, placing it among the 10 most popular downloads.
All profits from the album downloads will be given to the Heart of Missouri United Way, in order to help relief efforts through its “United for Joplin” campaign. Visit www.songsforjoplin.com for more information.
Joplin resident Ross Gipson also penned a song in the tornado’s aftermath.
His song, “Wounded Town,” can be purchased on iTunes for 99 cents, with proceeds to be divided between Children’s Haven and the school district.