The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 18, 2013

Dorothy Maples

Dorothy Maples always felt a calling to volunteer, whether it was participating in a fundraiser or giving a hand to help someone in need.

Large-scale disaster response wasn’t on her radar, however, until the need hit home in a very literal sense.

On May 22, 2011, Maples, 33, was returning home to Seattle from vacation when she got news that her home town had been hit by a tornado.

“I saw on Facebook that there were tornado warnings and that sirens were going off,” she said. “I called my dad and then the phone went dead. Within a couple of minutes, the Weather Channel started airing images from near (the former St. John’s Regional Medical Center).”

While she kept up to date with what was happening in Joplin via television reports, she said she wasn’t able to wrap her head around the magnitude of the disaster until she arrived in town two days later. She brought with her some supplies that had been gathered in Seattle, and worked to help friends and family recover items from their damaged homes.

Leaving Joplin behind wasn’t easy, she discovered.

“When I left, I didn’t feel whole,” she said. “I had this weird, sick feeling in my stomach. I asked to take a leave of absence from work and took a month off to come back. I volunteered through AmeriCorps St. Louis doing demos.”

After returning to Seattle at the end of that month, she still felt drawn to be back in Joplin. She left her job doing home loans for Bank of America and signed on for a year of service with AmeriCorps in her home town.

She said that AmeriCorps has a training program for its volunteers, but much of what she learned was through hands-on experience, working side by side with people who had been with the organization for a long time.

Not all of her time was spent in Joplin, however.

During that time, she and another volunteer were sent to Louisiana to help following Hurricane Isaac, which struck the Gulf Coast in late August 2012.

“Every disaster is different,” she said. “You couldn’t immediately tell the gravity of the damage. There, it was caused by water and wind and it required you to go inside the homes to see the damage that had been done. But my time in Joplin definitely gave me the knowledge and experience to assist down there with the rest of the team.”

When her two-year stint with AmeriCorps comes to an end, Maples said she plans on returning to Seattle. But she doesn’t intend to leave behind her calling to assist others.

“I’m not sure what it will mean yet, but I plan to continue in the disaster recovery field,” she said. “After coming back to Joplin and seeing all of the volunteers who came from everywhere, I felt a need to pay it forward.”

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May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace

    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

  • 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

  • 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

  • r052214butterflygarden.jpg New park feature opens on tornado anniversary to encourage healing

    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

  • Creator of Joplin-based ‘Dear World’ exhibit features Boston bombing victims in new work

    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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