The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

May 2011 Joplin tornado

May 18, 2013

Charlie Brown

As he walked through the devastation left in the wake of the tornado, trying to lend a hand to people in need, the thought was there in the back of Charlie Brown’s mind.

“What if this was my mom? What if this was us? Who would be there for us?” he said, reflecting on the questions that motivated him to become involved with the long-term recovery effort.

After hearing word that members of the Westboro Baptist Church planned to picket the community memorial service planned for a week after the tornado, Brown created a Facebook page to organize a peaceful counter-protest.

“I’ve been counter-protesting them since 2007,” he said. “It took me just a second to say: ‘This isn’t going to happen here.’”

The event page grew to nearly 30,000 “likes,” and thousands of people turned out to shield any protesters from view and show their support for Joplin.

Through his Facebook page for the counter-protest, Brown was able to organize people to collect funds and take donations during the event.

Brown, 34, is the events manager for the Christman Events Center. A self-described “grassroots kind of guy,” his work on behalf of Joplin soon became like another full-time job.

In the months after the tornado, he led a social media push to help Joplin win several online contests, including $7,500 in McAlister’s Deli Tea Town USA contest (an amount then matched by the local franchisee) and a $25,000 prize in Coca-Cola’s America is Your Park competition, and helped to promote a toy drive.

Brown said that it was his social media presence that brought him to the attention of other groups, which requested his help.

He began working with Homes of Hope Joplin, which was created with the goal of building 20 houses. Support for the project hasn’t been as strong as hoped, but he said the group doesn’t intend to waver on that goal.

“We’re still here,” Brown said. “We got a house built and two foundations down. We’re not going to give up.”

Brown also became the volunteer project manager for Stars of Hope.

Founded in 2007 when a group from Texas took wooden stars to tornado survivors in Greensburg, Kan., the program spread to Joplin in the months after May 22, 2011. The goal of the program, he said, is to help heal and inspire.

Community paints were organized to paint stars with words and images of inspiration. In addition to creating a star in memory of each person lost to the tornado, the Joplin group was invited to paint stars in remembrance of each of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, and a special community star was delivered to Minot, N.D., which experienced severe flooding in the summer of 2011.

While he said he felt compelled to get involved and stay involved in Joplin’s long-term recovery, he said even the smallest acts of volunteerism can bring about change.

“You don’t have to do something massive,” Brown said. “You don’t have to build a house. But you can take a warm meal to a senior citizen, or help somebody in need once a week. I think if everybody would take that extra step to make a difference, we would see a huge change in this world.”


Text Only
May 2011 Joplin tornado
  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • Issues prompt pair to seek help from city; allocations approved for repairs in tornado zone

    Two people spoke to the Joplin City Council on Monday night about issues they would like the city government to address. Elizabeth Clement, a Neosho resident who works in Joplin, asked the city to operate more surveillance in parking lots because of the number of cars stolen. She said her car was stolen from the parking lot at Northpark Mall and used in robberies.

    April 7, 2014

  • National institute releases final report on Joplin tornado

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology on Friday released a final report into the technical investigation of the May 22, 2011, tornado that struck Joplin — the deadliest tornado in the United States in the 64 years that official records have been kept.

    March 28, 2014

  • r031814tornadofunds2.jpg Local tornado fund board cites appreciation, accomplishments

    The 991 donations ranged from $1 to $119,000. They came from all over the world. On Tuesday, the managers of the Joplin Tornado First Response Fund gave an accounting of how those donations, which totaled about $995,950 with interest, were given in 41 grants, recipients of which included 27 local agencies.

    March 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Dan Riddell 0604013.jpg 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.”

    February 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • r021714rescuedog.jpg 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.

    February 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 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.

    February 4, 2014

Purchase Globe Photos

Featured Ads
Tornado: Multimedia coverage
Tornado: Obituaries
Tornado: Columns
Tornado: Mike Pound
Tornado: Lists of missing, fatalities & relief
Tornado: Donate & volunteer
Tornado: Resources & relief