It's been seven weeks since we arrived in Joplin to set up disaster relief efforts, and yet we still see new faces and register new volunteers. Last week, we were introduced to a few of the volunteers from across the country, and asked them what inspires them to join us.
Libby Turner, the Federal Coordinating Officer for FEMA, spends her days clearing debris alongside hundreds of other volunteers. “We're all average Americans doing average things in an incredible situation and I think that makes these folks heroes,” said Turner.
“You can actually see the progress you've made,” said Second Lieutenant Kasie King, a U.S. Army Engineer Basic Officer.. “You walk up and it's just destruction and debris everywhere but when you leave you get to see that it's cleared. Those little baby steps toward progress, I think for anyone that would be great motivation to come out and it makes you feel so good,” added King.
Turner and King are just two examples of the type of wonderful people that have registered through the AmeriCorps staffed and run Volunteer Reception Center in Joplin. But on the ground, we've encountered thousands more with a different story to tell.
One such volunteer, Beverly Wardlaw, has been providing fresh and healthy vegetarian lunches for weeks as her way of giving back. She and the rest of the employees at Suzanne's Natural Foods in Joplin have opened their store to all volunteers and those affected by the disaster.
“We do it because you guys need it,” said Wardlaw. When asked why she is motivated to keep helping, she answered “It's the appreciation and knowing there's a real need for this, people really need some good food to work on.”
Another volunteer who befriended those on the ground is Joe Wallace. Affectionately called “Chainsaw Joe,” Wallace has been working closely with AmeriCorps for more than a month helping crews better learn how to properly use and care for chainsaws.
“Every one of you young people has inspired me,” said Wallace. “You're not sitting on your butts and you've shown me that young people will work. You've inspired me, you've lifted me up. You know it's going to be OK.”
“And it's because of folks like you, “says FEMA's Turner,“ This has been an incredible effort from the ground up. It has continued and that's what is important because it's out of the news but people are still coming. So come on. Come on down, there's still stuff to do.”
As you can glean from these inspiring stories, it doesn't take much to make a difference in this community, and help is still very much needed.
To connect directly with us in Joplin and find out more about our current volunteer opportunities, call the Volunteer Hotline at (417) 625-3543.
All photos by Scott Julian.
Kelsey Wood is an AmeriCorps NCCC member with the Denver campus, currently serving in Joplin, MO.
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