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.”
Two Joplin residents have found that retirement is a lot of work.
- May 2011 Joplin tornado
Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment
After investments that included stationing a company executive in Joplin for eight months last year, officials with Farmers Insurance said the company will continue its post-tornado commitment to Joplin in 2014. “We’re going to stay until the end,” said Doris Dunn, director of community relations for the company, on Wednesday. “That includes sending in another 100-plus volunteers and making some additional financial investments.”
- SLIDESHOW: One year later, One day of unity, updated Photos from a day of events commemorating the May 22, 2011 tornado anniversary
Author prepares for release of children’s book featuring heroic Joplin rescue dog
Carolyn Mueller is both a dog lover and a storyteller. So when she got the opportunity to write a story about a Joplin dog named Lily who helped search for survivors after the May 2011 tornado, she jumped on it. “Dogs like Lily can be heroes, too,” she said.
VIDEO: Lost photos claim day to be held at museum
National Disaster Photo Rescue and the Joplin Museum Complex have scheduled a public viewing and photo claim day for 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22, at the museum complex in Schifferdecker Park. The project, originally known as Lost Photos of Joplin, was organized in the weeks after the May 22, 2011, Joplin tornado to reunite storm victims with photos displaced by the storm.
Building-permit total since tornado nears $1 billion
The building of new homes in Joplin continues at an average pace of 16 to 18 per month, according to a building permit report released for December by the city of Joplin. Eighteen building permits for new homes were issued in both November and December. In fiscal year 2013, permits for new homes averaged more than 16 per month.
FEMA official recognized by city
A retiring official of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who directed much of that agency’s response to Joplin’s 2011 tornado was recognized Friday by the city of Joplin. Richard Serino, the deputy administrator of FEMA, was presented a proclamation by Mayor Melodee Colbert-Kean during his last visit to Joplin before he retires on Jan. 23.
Two Joplin men sentenced to two years for tornado fraud
Two Joplin men convicted in separate incidents of disaster fraud related to the May 22, 2011, tornado on Monday were sentenced to two years in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution. Andy Eric Brownlee, 32, was ordered by U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes. to pay $2,750 in restitution, and Leslie Lynn Williams, 54, was ordered to pay $1,196 in restitution.
Tornado fund board hears grant requests
Trustees of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund heard proposals Tuesday from 11 organizations for grant funding. The board is to decide how to spend about $225,000 remaining in the fund in what may be the final round of grants. The fund was established shortly after the 2011 tornado to receive donations from those who wanted to give direct aid to Joplin for recovery.
Joplin community publishes book of tornado experiences
Leaders in the Joplin community have published a collection of stories about the 2011 tornado and the recovery efforts that followed. First-hand accounts for the book, titled “Joplin Pays It Forward,” were written by city and school leaders; officials from health care centers and public utility companies; leaders in the business and media communities; representatives of churches and nonprofit organizations; and individuals with federal, state and local disaster relief groups and agencies.
New fire stations being readied for opening
After 2 1/2 years in temporary quarters as a result of the 2011 Joplin tornado, firefighter crews are moving into newly built replacement stations ahead of schedule. Firefighters last week began preparing a new Station No. 2 at 2825 W. Junge Blvd. for occupancy. It replaces a station at 2216 S. Maiden Lane that was destroyed in the tornado.
- More May 2011 Joplin tornado Headlines
- Farmers Insurance extends tornado recovery commitment