My Joplin Experience

Here is a post by Travis Marler, one of the participants from Brentwood who went to Joplin yesterday as part of a clean up crew, sharing his reflections on his experiences. Joplin will obviously be in need of assistance in the following days, weeks, months, and even years. Visit this page to stay updated on how you can most effectively help.

I spent most of the day on Thursday in Joplin helping with the tornado clean-up. I thought I would share some of my thoughts and experiences.

First of all, the damage is very, very bad. The tornado was about 3/4 of a mile wide, and virtually everything within that 3/4 of a mile–along a path several miles long right through the center of the city–is simply going to have to be bulldozed. The slate will have to be wiped clean and everything rebuilt. There isn’t really anything an unskilled laborer like myself (or most other people) can do within that area to help, except to to see it, empathize with those who lost everything and internalize what they must be feeling…to be them for a little while.

I went to Joplin yesterday with ten other people from Brentwood Christian Church, and a couple other churches. Before we ventured down into the destroyed area, we met a pastor at her church who gave us the names and addresses of some people who needed help cleaning up their yard. In the process of helping us with coordination, though, she shared some things about how the people of Joplin were feeling. The thing that struck me most, that I hadn’t thought of, was that there is a ton of survivor’s guilt hanging over the city right now. Many people are struggling to cope with the fact that a tree had fallen over in their yard, but less than a block down the street someone else’s “home” had no outside walls, no roof, and everything else was simply a pile of ruble in the center. Because of this survivor’s guilt, some people who had not taken the full force of the storm felt frustrated that crews were helping clean their yards instead of helping people who ‘really need it.’ It isn’t something to take personally.

Once we arrived at the home we were appointed to clean up, it was a pretty amazing sight. My team spent a couple hours cleaning up a ton of small debris in the front and back lawn of this woman’s home. Her neighbor next door had three or four huge trees downed in his backyard, one resting on his roof. About the time we finished cleaning up the first home, a group of five guys or so showed up who were a chainsaw team from Bentonville, AR. They were just driving around looking for people who needed their assistance. We partnered with them, and so with a group of more than fifteen people, we were able to cut down and remove almost all of the trees in a matter of about three hours…it’s hard to say how long it would have taken a group of only three or four chainsaw guys to do that. Not only that, but as we were working, at least two other groups stopped by to help us for a short while. It was simply an amazing site to look up and down the street and see all of these strangers stopping to help wherever they could. Not only were people stopping to help clear debris, but other groups were driving slowly up and down the street handing out food to anyone who was working. A Baptist group stopped to give us all a brown bag lunch. Others drove by shouting they had cold water. Also, there was a mobile group of nurses who came by to give tetanus shots. Yep, I got a tetanus shot out on the street curb. I’m good for another ten years, hehe.

Overall, it was hard work but an amazing experience. I would strongly recommend anyone in the Springfield area who is able to get connected with a church group or the Red Cross or another aid agency, and do your best to get over and help for a day. They need our help, and we need to talk to the people who live there. We need to hear them tell about their experiences, and we need to see how strangers from different places and backgrounds can come together to help one another.

If you are interested in helping, here a few tips I can give you:
1) Buy a pair of heavy work gloves to wear. The land is frosted with glass shards and splintered wood.
2) Bring several rakes, and a box of heavy duty trash bags. Again, people’s lawns are just filled with both large and small pieces of glass, wood, plastic, etc.
3) Be prepared for traffic congestion…think 76 Hiway in Branson on a Friday night in the summer.
4) Bring mentholatum (sp?) like Vick’s vapor rub or something…if you end up in the worst areas, the smell might be pretty bad.

Helping with Joplin Tornado Relief (Updated)

Here is a really helpful table showing what items are being collected at what locations. Click here to view it


If you are planning on going to Joplin as part of Brentwood’s volunteer team on Thursday, please note that we are now meeting at Brentwood at 8 a.m., and NOT in Mount Vernon, as was previously announced. Contact Charlie at 417-234-6826 for more information. Thank you.

———UPDATED AT 2:35 PM ON WEDNESDAY, 5/25/11———

Just received word from Rev. Charlie Bahn: Items most needed in Joplin right now are clean underwear and socks, bottled water, diapers, non-perishable food items that can be easily opened, work gloves, and toiletries. Please no used clothing. If you are going on the work trip with Charlie tomorrow then you can bring these items with you. If not, read below to find most convenient drop off location for you. Thanks.

Ozarks Food Harvest Volunteers Needed
Volunteers to work at Ozarks Food Harvest are urgently needed to assist with Joplin Tornado Relief. Volunteers are needed to unload trucks, sort and repack donations and create care packages. Volunteers will be needed immediately and over the next few weeks to come.

Volunteer sessions MUST be scheduled in advance!
Call (417) 865-3411 or email our volunteer coordinators –
Tina Olson or
Jennifer Sickinger

Weekday Opportunities – Monday through Friday
(The youngest volunteer age allowed is 14)
Morning Session: 9 to 12 pm
Afternoon Session: 12 to 3 pm

Immediate Evening & Weekend Opportunities
(The youngest volunteer age allowed is 14)
Thursday, June 2nd: 6 to 9 pm – 25 VOLUNTEERS NEEDED
Saturday, May 28th: 9 am to 2 pm – 25 VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

Most Needed Items for Joplin
· Easy open, ready to eat nonperishable food items
· Peanut butter
· Canned goods and can openers
· Snacks such as crackers and granola bars
· Paper plates
· Eating utensils
· Paper towels
· Toilet paper
· Bleach & misc. cleaners
· Disinfecting Wipes
· Trash Bags
· Gloves-latex and leather
· Hand sanitizer
· Soap and shampoo
· Deodorant
· Toothpaste and toothbrushes
· Diapers & baby wipes

———UPDATED AT 9:59 AM ON WEDNESDAY, 5/25/11———

1. Info on Volunteering
Missourians interested in volunteering to assist should call (800) 427-4626 or 2-1-1. Those with medical skills interested in volunteering should go to:

Our church is organizing a group of volunteers to go to Joplin on Thursday, May 26, to help five Disciples of Christ families who were affected by the tornadoes. If you would like to volunteer for this team, plan on meeting Charlie Bahn at the McDonald’s just off of the I-44 Mount Vernon exit at 9 am on Thursday, May 26. Call Charlie at 417-234-6826 to let him know you plan on going.

Anyone wanting to volunteer but not sure where to go, can come to: College Heights Christian church 4311 E. Newman. Just tell them u r here to volunteer and they will have u sign in and put u to work!! They are open 7-7pm seven days a week and are anticipating being the distribution center for at least a month. So plenty to do for many weeks!! To get to College Heights to volunteer. Take 44 to 249 go north to Newman rd turn West. Church is on your right (north side of rd).

2. Communicating with loved ones
Residents affected by the tornado who wish to notify their friends and family that they are safe should go to:

3. Disaster Information
Missourians who need disaster information, shelter information or referrals are urged to call 2-1-1. The United Way’s 211 service number is now available for most areas in Missouri. In areas where the 211 number is not operational, citizens can call 800-427-4626.

4. Donate Blood
Donate blood at the Community Blood Center at Glenstone and Seminole or S. Campbell and Plainview. If you donate blood at the Red Cross it is not guaranteed to stay in the area, whereas blood donated at the Community Blood Center will.

5. Donate Money
Click here to make a monetary donation to Week of Compassion, the disaster relief organization of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). You may also donate to Week of Compassion by making a check to Brentwood Christian Church and marking “Joplin Tornado Relief” in the memo. 100% of donations will go directly to Joplin relief efforts. You can bring your check by the church or mail it.

6. Non-Monetary Donations
Beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday and continuing through next Monday, a Bass Pro Shops trailer will be at the Bass Pro Shops parking lot, 1935 S. Campbell Ave., Springfield, where customers and area residents can make canned food product donations. Customers may also drop off canned goods inside the Bass Pro Shops store Grand Entrance. Donations may be made until 8 each night.

Other items needed include:
Bottled water, packaged fruit juices, tooth brushes and tooth paste, shampoo, toiletries, packaged snacks including granola bars, energy bars, cookies, snack crackers, fruit snacks, etc., Kleenex, toilet paper.
These items can be dropped off at the Habitat for Humanity Restore (2410 South Scenic) or at Smiling Sun (1161 West Division).

Quality Tents are also needed (click here for more info on where to drop off your donated tents)

TUESDAY AM UPDATE: These tech items have been requested: Used mobiles/laptops with chargers, webcams, digital cameras, scanners, printers and ink/toner cartridges, copers/toner/paper, prepaid cell phones and chargers, prepaid mobile coupons, Verizon AirCards for mobile connectivity, routers, 50 ft. ethernet cables, plug bars and UPS backup power. It’s best if they are put in individual heavy-duty ziplock bags w/ charger and peripheral. When we know about the collection site(s) for these tech items we will post it here.

7. Various Collection Sites Around Springfield
The Ozarks Food Harvest (2810 N. Cedarbrook Avenue, Springfield, MO 65801) is holding a Food & Fund Drive for Joplin, starting May 23 through the end of May and beyond. Hours for donating are 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday – Friday.Monetary donations can be made securely online at or checks can be sent to: Ozarks Food Harvest Attn: Joplin Disaster Relief P.O. Box 5746 Springfield, MO 65801-5746.

Convoy of Hope will park one of their full-sized trucks in the parking lot of Springfield’s Incredible Pizza Company on South Campbell Ave. Donations of canned food and other goods will be accepted. Incredible Pizza Company will give a $5 game card to each family that brings any canned good to the Convoy of Hope truck, and will also give a free buffet to anyone who donated blood, with their donation ticket.

OTC has created a central collection point for the Joplin Tornado Relief. Please bring all NEW non-perishable items to the Springfield campus at the corner of National and Chestnut Expressway where two TTI trucks will be parked. Items will be collected from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and possibly Wednesday.

Christ Episcopal Church is open Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm for drop off of items for the Joplin recovery process.

The Giggle Box Project is accepting donations of new and gently used toys and other fun stuff for the Kids of Joplin and will be delivering them Friday, May 27th in the Giggle Bus and a crew of clowns. Donations may be dropped off at The Giggle Box office everyday though Thursday from 8am until 7pm. Go to for more info or call 417-368-3259.

Habitat for Humanity Restore is taking donations for people. Items needed: Blankets, water, nonperishable foods, medical supplies. You may deliver donations to Habitat Restore 2410 South Scenic. If you are on the North side of town – we are taking donations at Smiling Sun and will take a truck down to Habitat. Our address is 1161 West Division – where Commercial & Division meet, just East of Kansas Expressway.

The Springfield Jaycees is hosting a toiletry drive and will be collecting items all week and delivering them to Joplin on Saturday. Items can be dropped off in the lobby at the following two locations: Jacob Krizan, Casey Real Estate (205 Park Central East in The Holland Building) and Elijah Haahr, McAnany, Van Cleave & Phillips, P.A. (4650 S. National, Suite D-2).

A collection site will be set up this afternoon at the Bistro Market. They are accepting blankets, shoes, clothing, toiletries, and nonperishable food items. They’ve donated their gated parking lot until Friday night so we will be there from 9am – 8pm the rest of the week. Donations will be taken to Mt. Hope Church in Webb City.

Donations will be collected on June 4 at 500 West Walnut Lawn Apt. 34, Springfield, MO 65807. Items can include clothing, bedding, toys, shoes, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes and canned food.

Mental Block Entertainment will be holding a charity rock concert at Club Fresh on May 30. Other donations, such as clothing, diapers and nonperishable goods, will also be accepted. Monetary donations will be collected at Zeal starting Thursday at 9 p.m.

Pellegrino’s School of Art and Music (1269 E. Republic Road) is collecting diapers, formula, bottles, water, wipes, kids clothes and shoes, blankets, pillows.

Meek Chiropractic on E. Sunshine (Springfield) and Marshfield Chiropractic (Also owned by Meek Chiropractic-Marshfield Office) is collecting water, non-perishabe food and personal hygiene supplies. The items will be taken to CrossBridge Church and they are taking a stock trailer (or a few) to Forest Park Church in Joplin who now has 40+ families they are hosting.

Sierra Moving and Delivery will be collecting donations outside of Karl’s Bridal and Formal Wear (1255 W. Battlefield Road, Springfield, MO 65807) from 12 p.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday (5/24) and 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday (5/25). Items to donate include: water, cash donations, snacks (nonperishable items), cereal bars, dried fruit, high nutrient bars/foods, crackers, canned foods; new shoes, clothing, blankets, diapers and basic toiletries.

8. Fundraisers
Both Pasta Express locations (3025 W. Republic and 3250 E. Battlefield) will be holding a fundraiser on Thursday 5/26 from 4-9 p.m. 25% of sales will be donated directly to the Convoy of Hope.

20% of all sales between 4-9 p.m. on 5/24 at Chik-Fil-A on S. Glenstone will be donated to Joplin tornado relief.

The Springfield Roller Girls and Ozarks Derby Brigade will hold a food and goods drive at their Memorial Day weekend bout on Sunday, May 29. The bout will be held at Skateport (3820 S. Glenstone).

Buckingham’s Smokehouse Bar B Q will be accepting donations at the South Campbell location.



The Council of Churches of the Ozarks have started two threads on Facebook – one for volunteering and one for donations – to be used to connect the faith community together with relief efforts. Updates on relief efforts will also be posted on the website

Here are several helpful links:

Locate missing loved ones
Safe and Well – To Locate Missing Loved Ones

To Find Loved Ones or to Volunteer
Americorps Resource Center is coordinating volunteer efforts and can assist in finding loved ones. Contact 417-659-5464. Please note that officials have asked that the community refrain from traveling to the Joplin area at this time.

OTC Accepting Household Items and New Clothing
Ozarks Technical College (OTC) is currently accepting donations of new household goods and new clothing. Donations can be made today until 9pm, Tuesday 7am-9pm and Wednesday 7am-9pm. Donations can be brought to the main campus located at National and Chestnut Expressway.

Urgent Need for Blood Donations
The American Red Cross is requesting an urgent need for Type O Negative blood. Blood donations can be made to the Community Blood Bank. Donations can be made at the following locations:

Springfield – Campbell Donor Center, 220 W. Plainview Road – 8am to 6pm (Monday only)

Springfield – Reser Donor Center, 2230 S. Glenstone – 8am-6pm (Monday only)

Joplin – Northpark Mall, 101 N. Range Line Rd. – 11am-7pm (Monday only)

Donations of Food
Ozarks Food Harvest is requesting donations of easy-open, ready-to-eat nonperishable food items, or canned goods and can openers. Snacks such as crackers and granola bars are needed. There is a demand for all types of personal hygiene items, including diapers, and paper products such as paper plates, eating utensils, paper towels and toilet paper. Cleaning supplies are also accepted. Water bottles are not a priority from donors at this time.

Resources for Information
Donation Collection Sites and Resources
Where to Take Donations If You Live Outside of Springfield
Tornado Relief and Recovery Updates on Facebook
Finding Lost Pets or Posting Found Pets
Fostering Lost Pets
Map of Closed Roads

Thank you for all that you do – for your hope, your prayers, and your courageous compassion.