The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 18, 2013

John Williams and Mike Hamilton

Two Joplin residents have found that retirement is a lot of work.

But John Williams and Mike Hamilton, who spend most of their weekdays volunteering with local nonprofit rebuilding organizations, probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

Williams was no stranger to carpentry work, but he got a crash course in home building after the tornado. A member of College Heights Christian Church — which became a massive volunteer and distribution center in the wake of the storm — Williams volunteered his time on three builds sponsored by his church.

“I went from there to the Extreme Makeover homes, then the ‘Ten for Joplin’ project on Kentucky Avenue,” he said.

The latter project was sponsored by the Tulsa Habitat for Humanity, and Williams stayed on with the Joplin Habitat group as a full-time volunteer. In the two years since the tornado, the 66-year-old estimates that he’s worked on more than 60 houses. Nearly every day he can be found working at one of the local Habitat building sites. Sometimes he’s part of a small building crew, other days he might be lending assistance to a large group of volunteers who have come to Joplin to lend their time and energy.

“I’ve learned a lot of stuff through the entire home-building process,” he said. “Parts of it I already knew, parts of it I didn’t. It’s fun to do and it keeps me busy. Being retired (from MoDOT), this is what I wanted to do ... volunteer work.”

Traveling between the program’s multiple building sites to work can be tiring, he said, but also extremely rewarding.

“I even got to present keys (to a house) to one of the families. They’re just so thankful and the kids are so happy ... they run in and get their bedrooms picked out.”

Hamilton, 67, retired to Joplin in January 2012 from Garden City, Kan., where he worked as an electric technician for a power plant. His primary objective was to be closer to his mother, who lives in north Joplin and was unaffected by the tornado. But once he moved and settled, he felt the call of volunteerism.

“I saw the need, that’s all,” he said. “And I have the skills to do it, so why not?”

Now a full-time volunteer, Hamilton said he spends 30 to 40 hours each week with Rebuild Joplin, rotating among the organization’s active work sites of house rebuilds. After Rebuild Joplin houses have a frame, a roof and walls, he works with a small team of other electricians to hook up all the electric wiring in them.

He estimates he has worked on nearly 20 houses, with each structure’s electrical work taking up to a week to complete. He also assists with plumbing and other areas where extra volunteers might be needed.

Hamilton, a U.S. Navy veteran of the Vietnam era, said he enjoys meeting other volunteers, particularly those who have come from outside the Four-State region. He also said volunteering helps him to stay busy and keeps him young.

Although he acknowledges he would generally prefer to stay out of the spotlight, Hamilton said he likes knowing that he is helping someone.

“Let’s put it this way — I’ve had a good life,” he said. “It’s been good to me, and it’s time to give back.”

Text Only
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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