Join In For Joplin: A 9/11 Call To Service and Remembrance

Join In For Joplin:

A 9/11 Call To Service and Remembrance

             On May 22, 2011 at 5:42 p.m., an EF-5 tornado ripped through the heart of Joplin, Missouri with destructive winds of over 200 m.p.h.  At times over a mile wide, the tornado gouged a 14 mile long path.  Television cameras could not capture the total devastation.  One hundred and fifty-nine people lost their lives that day and hundreds more were injured.  Over 8,000 homes and businesses were destroyed.

             Nevada, Missouri, sixty miles to the north of Joplin, is a small, rural community and home to Cottey College.  Cottey is a liberal arts college for women built on a commitment to service and education of women.  A culture of service is pervasive throughout the Cottey College campus and visible in the support of P.E.O. Chapters (a women’s philanthropic educational organization) to the college.  This culture of caring and service compelled Cottey students, faculty, and staff to respond to the needs of our friends, colleagues, and neighbors to the south.

             Although classes had been dismissed for the summer, Cottey students and personnel began responding immediately through search parties, medical response, emergency services, and supplies.  Back home in Pennsylvania, Cottey student Kendra Earl could not believe the devastation she was witnessing on television.  She had visited Joplin many times for shopping and entertainment during the past school year.  She needed to do something and distance wasn’t going to stop her.

             Within 24 hours Kendra had filled one tractor trailer with donations and sent it on its way to Joplin with the help of a volunteer truck driver.  Within another 24 hours, Kendra and her father were headed to Joplin to deliver another truck load of supplies.  Kendra’s compassion exceeded the 1,000 miles that separated her from Joplin and rallied the support and service from hundreds of individuals in her home state.

             Campus Activities Coordinator, Kris Korb utilized her Red Cross training to provide over two weeks of volunteer service to the citizens of Joplin as well as collected monetary donations from the campus community.  Assistant Vice President of Student Life, Helen Lodge called for volunteer blood donors and Director of Human Resources, Betsy McReynolds responded by collecting clothing and personal hygiene products for the victims.

             Eighteen year old Scott Hampton and his 24 year old brother Drew, sons of Experiential Learning and Student Success Coordinator Renee Hampton, were on scene that night manning search and recovery teams to rescue the trapped and injured.  Scott had attended his high school graduation and received his diploma only hours earlier.  Within the week, all six members of the Hampton family, including Cottey alumna Savannah Cory Hampton, had volunteered their services to the Joplin community as did the family of Deana Kerbs, secretary to the Vice President of Academic Affairs and John Shopper, manager of the service center/print shop.  In July, the Physical Plant employees of Cottey College held an auction with all proceeds going to the victims of the Joplin tornado.

             These are just a few examples of volunteer service to Joplin the campus family has given to date.  As a new school year approaches, returning Cottey students have called for a renewed effort of service to the citizens of Joplin.  AP news sources and local officials estimate that less than a third of the debris has been removed.  On August 7, FEMA assistance for debris removal will end and individual victims will be left to their own finances and devices to clean up the devastation.  Already traumatized, many of Joplin’s residents have had their property undervalued by insurance companies, while others are uninsured or under-insured.  As if nature’s blow wasn’t enough, the economic reality of rebuilding Joplin is settling in among the victims.  Excessive heat warnings and temperatures in the triple digits have pervaded the area since the middle of June reducing the number of volunteers assisting in the area.  Local news agencies are reporting a desperate need for additional volunteers.

             Therefore, in an effort to honor those that volunteered their assistance or sacrificed their lives to aid the victims of 9/11, Cottey College is issuing a challenge to all colleges and universities in a 100 mile radius, the P.E.O. sisterhood, and Cottey alumnae to “Join In For Joplin” and volunteer their services on the weekend of September 10 and 11, 2011.  Student leaders from across the Cottey campus will be joining forces to promote the weekend of service and recruit volunteers.  Promotional materials will be distributed by mail and email to colleges and universities, P.E.O. chapters, Cottey alumnae, and local news agencies.  Personal contact will be through phone calls to recruit volunteers as well.  Cottey College students will register volunteers prior to and on each day of the event to obtain the goal of 500 participants.  A minimum of six volunteer hours onsite will be required to participate in the event.  Volunteers will be required to check-in and check-out to ensure accurate accounting and tracking of volunteer hours and service.

             At 8:46 a.m. EDT on September 11, 2011, the time the first plane hit the World Trade Center, all volunteers will be asked to observe a moment of silence to recognize and remember those lost in the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and those lost to the tornado and its aftermath.  Afterwards, volunteers will return to the task at hand; assisting in the recovery of the city and the lives of its people.  Joplin officials have estimated that it may take up to ten years to recover and rebuild the city.  Should Cottey receive funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service for 2012-2014, those monies will be applied to additional volunteer efforts for the city of Joplin.  Cottey College students, faculty, and staff have committed themselves to aid in the restoration of Joplin through direct, hands-on service to the people affected by the tornado disaster.