The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Donate & volunteer

June 18, 2011

DONATE: Relief organizations establish separate funds for Joplin tornado victims

JOPLIN, Mo. — Donations ranging from bake sale proceeds to $1 million checks from Fortune 500 corporations have flowed in to support the Joplin area and its residents after the devastating May 22 tornado.

At least $10 million in contributions and pledges has been received so far by major organizations giving front-line services to tornado victims and those already trying to plan what will come in the area’s future.

The calculation is based on estimates from officials of those groups and larger announced donations and pledges. It does not include the hundreds of smaller donations that have come in to those groups and to other agencies, churches and organizations also involved in the effort.

The American Red Cross has received about $4.5 million in contributions and pledges so far; the Salvation Army, $3 million; United Way agencies, $1.3 million; Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri, more than $1 million; and the Joplin Business Recovery Fund, $100,000.

Response phase

At this point, Red Cross officials have not totaled expenditures, said Debi Meeds, chief executive of the organization’s Greater Ozarks Chapter.

“We haven’t done that calculation yet because we’re still in the response phase; we haven’t yet moved to recovery,” she said. “That’s unusual, nearly a month later. We think it’s going to be another week, or maybe even two weeks, but we’ll continue in this mode as long as people need shelter and basic needs.”

Response by the agency includes operating a shelter to house those left homeless by the storm. Just after the tornado, hundreds were being served in a gymnasium at Missouri Southern State University. Now, that number has dropped to fewer than 50 per night, and the shelter has been moved to a smaller site at Webb City Junior High School. The Red Cross also has served nearly 85,000 meals and handed out more than 150,000 recovery kits including shovels, rakes, brooms and cleaning supplies.

The agency will continue its work for the long term, she said, and later will work with CO-AD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster), a long-term recovery committee comprised of most of the response agencies.

Red Cross donations for Joplin also are segregated from other funds, Meeds said, calling the response “overwhelming, and from all over the country.

“People hear that Joplin wants to rebuild and that they love their community; they respond to that,” she said.

Tornado funds separated

The Salvation Army expects to maintain its emergency response center at 26th and Main streets at least until the end of July, with the agency’s response to last far longer, said Maj. Richard Forney.

He said the organization has received donations and pledges of “well over $3 million” so far, counting two $500,000 checks received from anonymous donors on Wednesday.

Though other expenses have not been calculated, Forney said the Salvation Army so far has distributed about $450,000 in vouchers for tornado victims to use for food, clothing and other needs.

“We’ve had close to 4,000 individuals come to our 26th and Main Street location,” he said. “First, we were seeing a lot of tornado victims. A lot of them may have moved to other locations or neighboring towns, because now we’re also starting to see some of our regular clients.”

Forney, who is working out of the center, said he could not estimate other costs of services provided so far, which includes 23,000 meals that had been served at the Salvation Army kitchen to tornado victims and volunteers in the recovery. At one point, meals were being served by 10 roaming canteens; that number now is down to three.

Other plans later this summer call for a summer camp for 325 youngsters from Joplin who have been affected by the tornado.

He said the weeklong camp in August will be staffed with nurses, counselors and other professionals “who will help the kids diffuse some of the issues from the tornado.

“There will be no cost for the parents, and it will give them a break, too.”

He said all donations to the group are audited at the Army’s fiscal center, Forney said, and money designated for the Joplin tornado and disaster is handled separately from other donations.

“If it’s given for the Joplin tornado and disaster, that’s where it goes,” he said. “Everything is bar-coded; we’re very cautious about that,” he said.

Short-term, long-term needs

Agencies affiliated with the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas have received pledges of more than $1.3 million. That has translated to contributions, to date, of about $420,000.

Mary Little, agency executive, said about $60,000 has been spent so far transporting tornado victims to and from appointments and to the Multi-Agency Response Center, and to establish a website called RebuildJoplin.org that will serve as an Internet portal for donors to learn about organizations involved in the tornado response. The site lists organizations and the services they offer, and their needs in terms of money, materials and volunteers.

The group is serving as the fiscal agent for money received by the Heart of Missouri United Way. Expenditures will be overseen by a four-member local committee.

“The committee is assessing immediate needs and recovery needs to coordinate resources so those dollars go for truly unmet needs,” Little said.

Other United Way funds designated for tornado relief will be overseen by the board, whose members will assess immediate and long-term needs and allocate that money to member agencies.

The Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri has received $1 million to go for recovery efforts. Money is going to the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund and the Joplin Recovery Fund, according to Michelle Ducre, executive director. The foundation also is collecting money for the Trees for Joplin Fund established by an anonymous donor to help replace trees around the community.

She said the first response fund was set up by the city of Joplin and will be overseen by representatives of the city, foundation and other groups. They will look at Joplin’s short-term needs after the tornado and how they should be met.

“This is money that will come in after FEMA, the Small Business Administration and other groups; we’ll be looking for unmet needs,” she said.

Ducre said an unfunded need that she sees right now is child care costs for parents who must return to work or are working to get homes back together after the tornado. The tornado destroyed many of the city’s child care centers, leaving a void for parents who need to find care for youngsters, particularly those from birth to age 5.

Currently, that is being provided at no cost by organizations including the Joplin Family Y, the Boys and Girls Club and Children’s Haven.

“These agencies are absorbing those costs and they’ll need resources,” Ducre said. “Parents need a safe place for those kids so they can go back to work and keep their lives on track.”

Money that goes to the Joplin Recovery Fund will be used to help in the long-term recovery of the city. She said plans call for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the city, churches and other organizations to be involved in an effort to identify those priorities.

Ducre said expenditures, as well as priorities, will be overseen by community groups.

“As we continue this journey, we want to be accountable to the community,” she said. “All of our donations go back to the community.”

Business challenges

The Joplin Business Recovery Fund has raised about $100,000 so far from businesses and other chambers, according to Rob O’Brian, of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce.

He said the goal is to raise between $500,000 and $1 million, and matching funds will be sought from the government or other agencies, to fill needs left after businesses receive more immediate help from the Small Business Administration, insurance or their banks.

The fund is administered separately from the chamber, with an advisory council of chamber-affiliated groups deciding on allocations.

O’Brian said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce put Joplin in touch with chambers of other cities hit by natural disasters to get recommendations on how to respond to the tornado. They all advised setting up a fund to take care of business needs in the initial year or two, after the initial rush of disaster relief from other agencies. O’Brian said the other chambers’ experience was that recovery could drag on and raise new or continuing challenges.

The money could go out in a number of ways, including low-cost loans, retraining grants, or be used to qualify for matching loans or gifts.

O’Brian raised the estimate of businesses severely damaged or destroyed by the storm to more than 450 in the tornado zone, with close to 5,000 workers affected. That’s up from the 400 businesses estimated earlier, because the chamber found more small, home-based businesses were hit.

Marcus Kabel, of The Associated Press, contributed to this story.

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Tornado: Donate & volunteer