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.”


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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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