They call it the theology of the hammer.
It’s built on the idea that rebuilding a devastated area includes more than the physical labor of constructing houses — it also includes fellowship and friendship with the homeowner, the volunteers and everyone involved in the process.
“We recognize that rebuilding homes is more than just hammers and nails,” said Kevin King, executive director of Mennonite Disaster Service. “As we’re rebuilding their homes, they’re rebuilding their lives.”
Thousands of volunteers have quietly put that theology into practice in Joplin through their work with Mennonite Disaster Service, a volunteer network of Anabaptist churches that serves disaster-stricken areas in the United States and Canada. Leland Hostetler, the Joplin project coordinator, said the group’s efforts would have been nothing without those volunteers.
“Without volunteers, you don’t have it,” he said. “There were days there were hundreds of volunteers, and every one of them picked up and moved 20 pieces of limbs to the curbside — that’s how much it didn’t cost the city to move it. I would say it is all due to volunteers.”
More recently, volunteers have helped rebuild houses for uninsured or underinsured homeowners, said Hostetler, who is from Buffalo, Mo. They also invited the homeowners to their headquarters each week for dinner, he said.
More than 3,300 people have volunteered through Mennonite Disaster Service since the tornado, primarily comprising around 30 sects of Mennonites, Amish and other types of Anabaptists, according to King.
“We may disagree about the cut of the cloth or how to baptize or whether women should be behind the pulpit, but we can agree to come here and work together and put somebody’s roof back on,” he said.
According to King, those volunteers completed 125 cleanups (which consisted of debris removal, limb cutting and the tearing down of structures), 23 minor repairs (rebuild projects consisting of less than 1,000 hours of labor), 25 major repairs (projects consisting of more than 1,000 hours of labor), nine complete house rebuilds and 12 assists (in which they aided other rebuild projects).
“I would say the volunteers have really showed here in Joplin what can happen when all the churches put aside their differences and work together side by side,” Hostetler said. “It makes a huger difference than if you try to do it by yourself. The volunteers have been absolutely awesome here. Everybody was more concerned about their neighbor than they were about themselves.”
The group wrapped up its Joplin operations in early April, tearing down its headquarters at Kenser Road and East 27th Street in Duquesne. The dismantled building will be stored until it needs to be rebuilt somewhere else after another disaster, King said.
“We must move on,” he said. “It’s painful, but we must move on for preparation for the next disasters.”
They call it the theology of the hammer.
- 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.
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
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.
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.”
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.’’
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Local new-home construction catches up to previous pace