The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

February 15, 2013

Woman volunteers in memory of daughter

Michelle Million-Worley brushes off the thanks that volunteers assisting in the rebuilding of Joplin usually receive. Instead, she considers herself the thankful one — thankful, she said, for the chance to do something meaningful to honor her daughter, Rayni.

“Rayni loved helping people, and immediately after she passed, I knew she would want me to continue,” she said. “She was an amazing child. She was so giving.”

Million-Worley, of Poplar Bluff, on Saturday wrapped up nearly a week of volunteering for tornado rebuilding efforts in Joplin in memory of her 15-year-old daughter, Shelby-Ruth Rainwater “Rayni” Worley, who died Nov. 7 from complications of a surgery. She said it was her first trip without her daughter by her side.

Million-Worley said she is still working to process her grief, but she takes comfort in knowing how many people her daughter had touched. Rayni donated her old clothes to children living in shelters, volunteered with Vacation Bible School classes and wanted to provide meals to the homeless, she said.

To continue that mission on behalf of her daughter, Million-Worley volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse, an evangelical Christian relief organization that has been in Joplin since the May 2011 tornado. She put up drywall and built the railing of a deck at a house on East 25th Street in Duquesne. On Friday, her last full day in Joplin, she was learning how to cut concrete blocks at a house on the 2500 block of South Virginia Avenue.

“She (Rayni) couldn’t have done stuff like this because of her lungs and the dust,” she said, “but this is her kind of thing.”

Rayni was born with severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome, which causes abnormalities in the immune system. As she grew older, she also was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, which involves the scarring of the lungs, and pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. Because of her illnesses, which had been diagnosed as terminal cases, she was homebound through the eighth grade and spent a few hours each day at her high school with other students, her mother said.

Million-Worley said Rayni went into cardiac arrest in the middle of a scoliosis surgery last fall. For two days afterward, she was responsive but on life support. She spent the next two weeks heavily sedated, and at that time Million-Worley made the difficult decision to remove her daughter from life support.

Million-Worley said as she worked this week that she felt connected to her daughter.

“Helping people makes me happy; helping people made Rayni happy,” she said. “This week I’ve had a lot of joy. This week I’ve laughed a lot.”

She said being in Joplin has sparked an understanding of what families — particularly those who lost a child — faced after the tornado.

“I just feel for the people here,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think any parent who has lost a child has a special bond with someone else who has.”

Million-Worley said she chose Joplin because it is relatively close to her hometown, as she was afraid of being far from her friends and family during her time of grief. She and Rayni had also taken a detour through Joplin shortly after the tornado as they drove back to Poplar Bluff from a medical conference they had attended.

“I remember stopping at a gas station, and we were in awe,” she said. “The devastation — Rayni was just taken aback.”

After her week in Joplin, Million-Worley said she will return home to work and save up enough money to allow her to take another break for volunteer efforts.

“I’ve already asked about coming back,” she said.

Local mission

Michelle Million-Worley and her daughter, Rayni, years ago launched Rayni Day Miracles, a nonprofit organization serving children with life-threatening illnesses. Million-Worley continues to work with the organization after her daughter’s death.

 

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
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    After a slow start early in this fiscal year for Joplin, the construction of new houses has resumed at the pace that existed in fiscal year 2013, when permits for new houses averaged more than 16 per month. Since November, the beginning of Joplin’s fiscal year, permits for 118 houses have been issued for a total cost of $12.8 million. The average value has been about $108,000.

    June 11, 2014

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    May 22, 2012 1 Photo

  • 060314 Farmers rebuild 1_72.jpg Farmers Insurance writes manual based on experience from Joplin disaster recovery

    Joplin’s housing recovery from the 2011 tornado is one for the books. Jeff Dailey, CEO of Farmers Insurance, announced Tuesday that not only will Farmers Insurance stick with Rebuild Joplin to repair and replace the homes left on the local group’s waiting list, but the company also will kick off a similar recovery effort today for the city of Sea Bright, New Jersey, based on a book it has written to expedite disaster recovery that is based on its experience in Joplin.

    June 3, 2014 2 Photos

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    Cunningham Park has become an emotional place for Pamela Praytor. The name of her son, Christopher Lucas, is engraved on a monument that stands in the park in memory of the 161 people who were killed in the May 2011 tornado. “Even though I cry when I come, it’s OK,” she said. “It’s part of the healing.”

    May 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • r051214greenbldgs3.jpg Home, business cited as examples of energy efficiency, strength

    Ramona and Charles “Hugh’’ Shields were not the least bit reluctant on Monday to open their new house in the tornado zone to a bunch of strangers who had a lot of questions. “I used to live in a house where I had to wear two pairs of socks in the winter to keep my feet warm — not anymore,’’ said Ramona Shields. “This house is nice and warm in the winter, and nice and cool in the summer.’’

    May 12, 2014 2 Photos

  • Mercy Health System to receive $23 million FEMA grant

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency will provide Mercy Health System of Joplin with $23 million in public assistance funding by the end of the year. The disaster relief was announced Friday by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

    April 25, 2014

  • Respond With Love flower.jpg Joplin pays it forward with flowers; residents asked to return bulbs ‘fostered’ for other towns

    Suzan Morang’s front yard bloomed brightly last year from a colorful array of bulbs that she will happily pass on to someone else this year. Morang, 1207 Xenia Court, is a participant in America Responds With Love, a national nonprofit organization that distributes bulbs to disaster-stricken cities.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

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    The messages written on the skin of some Boston Marathon victims may be different, but Joplin residents will recognize the handwriting. Robert X. Fogarty, the creator of the “Dear World: From Joplin with Love” exhibit, took his signature style of photography and inspiration to Boston. Fogarty traveled to Joplin in 2011 and took pictures of community members with inspirational messages written on their bodies in black ink.

    April 21, 2014

  • 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

  • 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

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