Officials with the Greater Ozarks Chapter of the American Red Cross have said that money is what Joplin needs most in the wake of Sunday’s tornado.
On Tuesday, five companies — TAMKO Building Products Inc., Wal-Mart, Home Depot, AT&T and Southwest Missouri Bank — came forward with a total of more than $3 million to put toward relief efforts.
Two Missouri-based professional sports teams followed suit with significant cash contributions, as did an area high school’s senior class and a breast cancer foundation.
David Humphreys, TAMKO president and CEO, presented a $1 million check to a tearful Debi Meeds, CEO of the area Red Cross, at a news conference Tuesday morning at the local Red Cross headquarters.
He emphasized that “this is bigger than TAMKO.”
“This is about individuals and businesses helping however they can help,” he said. “We thought it was important to do something, and to do it early and now.”
Meeds said she has “never seen anything like it,” referring to the damage from the tornado.
“I have talked to so many hundreds of people that this will make such a difference to,” Meeds said. “This is amazing.”
Humphreys noted that TAMKO’s Joplin-area manufacturing operations and corporate headquarters were not damaged by the tornado, but many of the company’s 800 or so employees or their family members have lost their homes or been otherwise affected by the storm.
The company also was affected by an April 27 tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
“Our plant there was 100 yards from the path and suffered some damage,” said Humphreys, whose own home is 100 yards from the path of the Joplin tornado.
The tornado nearly demolished one of Wal-Mart’s top stores, at 15th Street and Range Line Road. The Bentonville, Ark.-based company is pledging to help the community rebuild with $1 million in cash and in-kind donations.
Spokeswoman Kelly Cheeseman said Tuesday morning that Wal-Mart was working with the Salvation Army and the Red Cross, and will give the money to a mixture of groups.
The donation includes $200,000 pledged by the Sam’s Club Giving Club to the United Way, which Cheeseman said will be used specifically to help small-business owners and families in Joplin.
The Wal-Mart Foundation committed to spend $500,000 on essential need items. The remainder — $300,000 — is in-kind commitments for water and other supplies that will be directed to the area in coming weeks.
In a statement, Wal-Mart expressed gratitude to local employees who implemented a severe-weather plan as the tornado struck, potentially helping save hundreds of lives. A security officer estimated that up to 150 people were in the store at the time.
“Sadly, we had some injuries and fatalities as the tornado blew through the building,” the statement reads. “We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those customers in this extremely difficult time.”
The company has sent teams to Joplin to contact employees in the area.
The store was one of the top ones in the Wal-Mart chain, company officials have said in the past. In 2004, sales at the store were estimated at $93 million a year, according to records the company provided the city.
SOUTHWEST MISSOURI BANK
Tracy Asbell, a spokeswoman for Southwest Missouri Bank, said the company on Tuesday morning made a $10,000 donation to the relief effort and announced that it has established an account for those wishing to make donations. Individuals may go to any SMB branch or call 417-358-9331 to make those donations.
The Home Depot Foundation on Tuesday announced its commitment of $1 million to relief and rebuilding efforts. Like Wal-Mart, the national chain lost a building to the tornado, and several inside lost their lives.
Foundation members will be in Joplin this week to assess the long-term needs of the community, and how best to team up with nonprofit groups to deploy volunteers, dollars and products as Joplin rebuilds, officials said in a statement. In addition, the company said it will rebuild its store on the current site.
Separately, the Homer Fund, a charity for Home Depot employees in need of emergency financial assistance, has launched a companywide “Drive for Joplin” campaign to help workers and their families who were affected by the tornado.
The AT&T Foundation announced Tuesday a $50,000 grant to the Red Cross to support relief efforts in Joplin. The money is to be used to provide food, shelter, emotional assistance and basic supplies to individuals and families.
“We are incredibly grateful for AT&T’s generous donation and concern for the recovery of those affected,” said Meeds, with the area Red Cross. AT&T also deployed its Network Disaster Recovery operation to help expedite restoration efforts.
The Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday announced the intent to contribute $35,000 to relief efforts in Joplin and Reading, Kan., which also was hit by a tornado over the weekend. The team also will be accepting bottled water donations in the stadium parking lot.
Officials with the St. Louis Cardinals announced that the franchise has pledged $25,000 to Convoy of Hope to assist families.
CARTHAGE SENIOR CLASS
On Monday afternoon, the 287 members of the 2011 senior class at Carthage High School voted unanimously to donate $15,000 in Project Graduation funds for Joplin tornado relief efforts.
Students were to hold their post-graduation party tonight, said Project Graduation director April Jones, but Sunday’s tornado changed all that.
“As we started thinking about it, the parents and I, we asked ourselves, ‘How can we ask for all these companies planning to donate food and soda when they could be donating all that to something much more important than us having a party?’” Jones said.
During graduation practices Monday in the Carthage High School gymnasium, the students were asked to stand if they supported the idea of donating the Project Graduation money to the relief effort.
One by one, every single one of the seniors stood. There were few dry eyes in the gymnasium, Jones said.
“We were just overwhelmed,” she said of the students’ unselfish act. “They were already asking us” about donating money to relief efforts, “so it was already on their minds.”
HOPE 4 YOU
The Hope 4 You Breast Cancer Foundation in Joplin has pledged $10,000 to relief efforts, according the organization’s president, Sarah Burkybile. The group has put on a five-kilometer race each June for the past three years but has canceled the race this year.
Burkybile said all money raised through sponsorships and current registrations will be donated to tornado relief via the Heart of Missouri United Way.
STAFF WRITER Kevin McClintock contributed to this report.