The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

August 29, 2012

Celebrity chef says he experienced Joplin ‘spirit’

JOPLIN, Mo. — Celebrity chef Robert Irvine said that after seeing the tornado devastation in Joplin last year and working with local residents and volunteers, “it was like coming back home” this week to return for a segment of his “Restaurant: Impossible” cable network show.

“You have no idea,” he said of how seeing the devastation that took 161 lives affected him. “Joplin has made an indelible mark on my life.”

A holiday season version of Irvine’s show is being taped in Joplin as he and his crew renovate the kitchen at the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri. He said the labor is his way of thanking the volunteers who helped the club, and of showing his support for the people of Joplin.

“There’s a feel about Joplin, and it’s hard to describe in words,” said the chef of Food Network shows that include “Dinner: Impossible.”

Access to the club is being strictly controlled during the taping.

Irvine said he was in Joplin shortly after the May 22, 2011, tornado working with the American Red Cross. He said he committed then to return to do a project for Joplin’s rebuilding because of the resilience he saw in people. He said he persuaded the producers of “Restaurant: Impossible” to tape the show’s holiday special at a project for the Boys & Girls Club.

In the aftermath of the tornado, volunteers stayed at the club, and supplies were stored and distributed from there. Irvine said he saw the care that was given children enrolled at the club and that many of them were traumatized by the tornado.

Irvine said he couldn’t help but be moved by the suffering and loss he saw last year. “I always want to make sure we remember those who lost their lives,” he said. He said there are thousands of stories about the losses and about the heroic acts that took place to protect or save people. He specifically cited the loss of Chris Lucas, the 27-year-old manager of Pizza Hut who died trying to hold the cooler door shut to protect employees and customers.

“This says it all,” Irvine said, pulling off the blue bracelet distributed since the tornado that is imprinted with the phrase used by City Manager Mark Rohr to describe the selfless acts and determination of Joplin residents to recover: “The Miracle of the Human Spirit.”

“And you see that here in the people of Joplin and in the volunteers who came here,” Irvine said.

Rohr said he met with Irvine on Wednesday to discuss Joplin’s destruction and recovery.

“I was impressed with the sensitivity he demonstrated toward what Joplin had been through. I am thankful to him and the show for what they have done for Joplin and expressed that to them when we parted,” Rohr said in an email response to a Globe question about the meeting.

Irvine said he has renovated 54 failing eateries on the “Restaurant: Impossible” show. Projects have included a soup kitchen, a school, rebuilding a community center and planting a garden on a mission from Michelle Obama. “This, to me, is the most important,” he said of the Joplin show.

All of the restaurants helped by his show are thriving, he said. “‘Restaurant: Impossible’ for me is God’s work,” he said. “Is it tough love? Yes.”

But, the Boys & Girls Club is a different cause for him because the people thrive but the building is suffering from disrepair.

“The staff is great. The children are treated great,” he said. “The food is not so great, so we’re going to fix that.”

About Joplin

JOPLIN, SAID CHEF ROBERT IRVINE, is a place where he found the people to be resilient and appreciative despite the adversity of the 2011 tornado. “You can lose everything, but you can’t change people,” he said.

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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

  • 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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