The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

March 19, 2013

Rebuild Joplin celebrates opening of 59th house

Tornado organization committed to effort as long as need exists

JOPLIN, Mo. — They still want a grassy front lawn and a privacy fence, but Wesley and Susie Lamarr are otherwise back home.

“I thank everybody at Rebuild Joplin, and I thank all the volunteers,” Susie Lamarr said Tuesday at her rebuilt house in the 1900 block of Illinois Avenue. “I love this new home. It’s great.”

Rebuild Joplin was the host for a housewarming and ribbon-cutting Tuesday for the Lamarrs, who are among the dozens of clients that its staff and volunteers have helped move home in the 22 months since the May 2011 tornado. The organization itself has undergone a transformation since it was created nearly two years ago and has now rebuilt or repaired 59 houses for clients.

The Lamarrs were at home at the time of the tornado on May 22, 2011. Susie Lamarr, who sought shelter in the bathtub, said the bathroom was untouched, but the tornado ripped the roof off the house, uprooted parts of the concrete flooring in places such as the laundry room and shattered the windows. It also dropped an RV on their back porch, but the couple walked away largely unhurt, she said.

The Lamarrs camped in a tent in their front yard for a few weeks after the tornado before moving temporarily into an RV. They also moved among several rental homes in the nearly two years since the tornado, and on Tuesday they were happy to be back in a permanent house.

Officials said 95 volunteers from eight states donated 1,500 hours of work to the house’s construction, saving an estimated $33,000 in labor costs.

Rebuild Joplin has its house-building steps down to a science, but it hasn’t always been that way. The organization was created immediately after the tornado by Jerrod Hogan, who is now its executive director. It initially was a website that served as a central source of information about tornado relief efforts. The site also was a sort of middleman, connecting survivors and volunteers with the organizations that could assist them, said Doreen Finnie, development director.

The website eventually evolved into a fully fledged organization with the specific mission of rebuilding or repairing homes for tornado victims, Finnie said.

“Once they got out of that immediate crisis mode, they looked at what was the biggest need, and the biggest need was housing,” she said.

Rebuild Joplin now operates with a paid staff of eight to 10, and a volunteer staff from AmeriCorps of about 35 to 40, Finnie said. It is funded and sponsored by several companies, including Toyota, which also has worked with the organization on fine-tuning its methods to oversee the houses’ construction from start to finish, she said.

“They’re not telling us how to do the physical work better; they’re telling us how to do the processes better,” she said.

Toyota’s influence is apparent on the walls of the Rebuild Joplin office at Seventh Street and Illinois Avenue, which are filled with large flow charts and tables, coded by color and containing at-a-glance information on each client.

One dry-erase board in the construction room charts day-by-day goals, actual completed work and numbers of volunteers at each work site. A flow chart on the opposite wall gives a timeline of the entire home-building effort from “application processing” to “housewarming,” and labels all major milestones, such as “estimates,” “site prep” and “framing.” A notecard with each client’s name and address is affixed to the appropriate slot along the timeline, allowing anyone with Rebuild Joplin to quickly track where each client is on the steps.

Another giant wall chart tracks volunteer numbers over the next six months, which are expected to be busy. According to the chart, 165 volunteers per day are in Joplin this week, largely because of spring break for schools, while close to 500 volunteers per day are expected during one week in July.

Finnie said Rebuild Joplin is still accepting clients. Some, including the Lamarrs, have gotten the keys to brand-new homes that were built from the ground up. Others, especially more recent clients, have started reporting and seeking assistance with substandard repair work that was completed on their homes in the wake of the tornado, she said.

Finnie said anyone with a housing need is encouraged to contact Rebuild Joplin, even if assistance has been denied by another agency.

“So many people don’t realize that we can help them,” she said, “so we’re trying desperately to get the message out to just come talk to us.”

The organization also is launching a new program that seeks to turn renters into homeowners, said Thomas Corley, client services manager.

Through the program, Rebuild Joplin will build a new house with its volunteers and resources that then will be sold to a family or individual who was renting at the time of the tornado, he said. Three houses are under construction, and Rebuild Joplin is looking for qualified buyers, he said.

“So long as there is a need, we want to offer this option,” Corley said.

Finnie said Rebuild Joplin has a “shelf life” in that its reason for existing is getting tornado-affected residents back into their homes.

“When we feel that we’ve completed our mission, we will close,” she said.

Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • r041414wildwood.jpg Opening of nursing home another recovery milestone

    Gladys Dutton has done a lot of things in her life, but Monday’s dedication of the Communities at Wildwood Ranch nursing home marked a first. “I’ve never cut a ribbon before,” she said. “I hope I do a good job.” Dutton was one of four residents to participate in the opening of the $8.5 million nursing center that eventually will be home to 120 people.

    April 14, 2014 1 Photo

  • 052212 unity walk1_72.jpg SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary

    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • Joplin Redevelopment Corp. preparing for first property sale

    The first sale of property from the Joplin Redevelopment Corp. to Wallace Bajjali Development Partners is scheduled for May 16. The city staff will be working to prepare for that sale, it was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting of the JRC.

    April 9, 2014

  • Issues prompt pair to seek help from city; allocations approved for repairs in tornado zone

    Two people spoke to the Joplin City Council on Monday night about issues they would like the city government to address. Elizabeth Clement, a Neosho resident who works in Joplin, asked the city to operate more surveillance in parking lots because of the number of cars stolen. She said her car was stolen from the parking lot at Northpark Mall and used in robberies.

    April 7, 2014

  • National institute releases final report on Joplin tornado

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology on Friday released a final report into the technical investigation of the May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin — the deadliest tornado in the United States in the 64 years that official records have been kept.

    March 28, 2014

  • r031814tornadofunds2.jpg Local tornado fund board cites appreciation, accomplishments

    The 991 donations ranged from $1 to $119,000. They came from all over the world. On Tuesday, the managers of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund gave an accounting of how those donations, which totaled about $995,950 with interest, were given in 41 grants, recipients of which included 27 local agencies.

    March 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dan Riddell 0604013.jpg Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment

    After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • r021714rescuedog.jpg Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog

    Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.

    February 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum

    National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.

    February 4, 2014

  • Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion

    The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.

    January 31, 2014

Purchase Globe Photos


Featured Ads
Facebook
Tornado: Multimedia coverage
Tornado: Obituaries
Tornado: Columns
Tornado: Mike Pound
Tornado: Lists of missing, fatalities & relief
Tornado: Donate & volunteer
Tornado: Resources & relief