New coordinators take over annual Chase the Chill drive

As Ann Leach (second from left) retires from the Chase the Chill effort that she brought to Joplin five years ago, a new generation of charitable-minded individuals will take over the annual drive, including Wendy Rich, Jessica Tupper Moss, Tara Garrity, Desire' Seitz and Chelsea King. Globe|Kevin McClintock

At one point, Ann Leach couldn’t fight back her tears.

The Joplin woman who first introduced the Chase the Chill movement to Joplin five years ago is stepping away from the community effort, which attempts to chase away winter’s chill by spreading scarves across Joplin.

And though she’s turning her attention to other endeavors, it doesn’t mean she won’t miss it. After all, Chase the Chill has always been close to her heart, she said.

“Margaret Mead was right: A small group of people can change the world, or at least Joplin, and in a small moment in time that has a big impact for days,” Leach said, citing the American anthropologist. “I’m so grateful for all the volunteers who have given their time and talents to this effort. I know the original intent and spirit of the event will continue in lots of capable hands.

“Letting go hasn’t been a strong skill set of mine in the past, but I am excited to move forward and see my other projects grow too. And I’ll be back to help bag and hang scarves next year,” she continued. “It’s a tradition now.”

Taking her place are a collection of individuals from around the Joplin metro area who have stepped up to help lead the Chase the Chill movement into the new decade, answering Leach’s plea for help on the organization’s Facebook page.

Joplin resident Wendy Rich was one of the first to respond to Leach’s call.

“When (Leach) posted that if someone didn’t step up (Chase the Chill) would end, I just knew it couldn’t end,” said Rich, who added that Chase the Chill “is such an important project.”

A big boost for Chase the Chill Joplin going forward will be the added muscle provided by the Social Work League of Lions on the Missouri Southern State University campus. Tara Garrity, social work instructor and adviser for the club, said Chase the Chill will become the group’s signature project.

“We’re all into giving to one another when we can, and I think this is a great opportunity for the League of Lions club to be a part of something bigger,” club President Desire’ Seitz said. She added it will also show future Southern students and club members how social work can help the community.

Jessica Tupper Moss, who was searching for a charity to serve this year, just happened to stumble across Leach’s plea for help. Chase the Chill seemed the perfect place for her to focus her time and attention, she said. After all, she crafted scarves in the past and is doing so again for this year’s event.

Moss will replace Leach as Chase the Chill coordinator.

“It’s such a wonderful and worthy cause,” she said.

Scarves are now being collected at several locations throughout Joplin. Later this month, they will be distributed at more than 100 locations by a small army of volunteers.

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