Talking to residents of Joplin, it’s clear that the events of May 22, 2011, are deeply personal. Of course the hurt starts with the loss of life; more than 160 residents gone in the minutes of the tornado and the days and weeks that followed.
But the second cut, unbelievably cruel in its own way, was the loss of thousands upon thousands of homes. With the destruction of a huge swath of the city came the loss of any sense of place for those who lost their houses and possessions. Landlords debated whether it was even worth rebuilding; available housing became scarce; citizens relocated to other towns. Simply finding a place to start was an overwhelming proposition.
But start they did. Largely under the umbrella of Joplin’s Long-Term Recovery Committee, groups came together and began to form a plan. During the summer of 2011, Rebuild Joplin–operating under the business model of the St. Bernard Project, which had six years of experience rebuilding in post-Katrina Louisiana–stepped in to help equip groups for the building blitz to come.
“We decided we would take the construction lead,” said Kate Massey, representing Rebuild Joplin. “We wanted to help build homes quickly and efficiently using volunteer labor and donated materials to keep the costs down.”
Rebuild Joplin is the construction-coordinating arm of LTRC. There are eight other partner agencies on the grant who independently repair and build homes in the tornado affected zone. All are part of the LTRC and share resources and volunteers. In 2012 the goal is to begin building or repairing 100 homes between the nine participating LTRC agencies, including Rebuild Joplin. In reality, though, the expectation is to build “more than 100,” Massey says.
To that end, the Long-Term Recovery Committee and Rebuild Joplin were recipients of a $1.5 million grant on Thursday for building materials to meet this goal. The grant was one of five given to Joplin-area agencies on Thursday at The Mystery Church as part of $1.925 million The Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri awarded in Joplin Recovery Fund grants to support affordable housing-related projects.
The grants were announced at a meeting of the Long-Term Recovery Committee. The grants were awarded to:
- Joplin Long-Term Recovery Committee/ Rebuild Joplin: $1.5 million building materials and supplies to rebuild and repair 100 homes in 2012. The nine partner agencies include: Habitat for Humanity, Rebuild Joplin, Fuller Center for Housing, Mennonite Disaster Services, Catholic Charities, Harry S. Truman Coordinating Council, Spring River Baptist Association, College Heights Christian Church, and Joplin Family Worship.
- Rebuild Joplin/SBP: $250,000 to repair and rebuild homes in Joplin and Duquesne for tornado survivors using SBP’s construction model for post-Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans.
- Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity: $125,000 for storm shelters for Habitat homes.
- Mennonite Disaster Services: $40,000 to support 620 volunteers (or 2,650 days of labor) at the MDS “camp” in Joplin with dormitory-style lodging, basic substantial meals, and transportation to work sites.
- New Creation Church: $10,000 to purchase supplies and build storage sheds for those who lost their homes in the tornado.
The grant review committee is still considering other affordable housing requests to complete the total grant round of $2.5 million. These grants are made possible by the generosity of donors to the Joplin Recovery Fund, as well as the Lilly Endowment, Inc., the Home Depot Foundation, and the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.
Grant committee members made site visits to the successful applicants and also recognized the value of collaborations and partnerships in the housing recovery process.
This is the second round of grants made from the Joplin Recovery Fund, administered by the CFSWMO, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks. In September 2011, the CFSWMO’s grant review committee made 18 awards totaling $300,000 to non-profit agencies that were either directly affected by the May 22 tornado or experienced an increased impact on the services they provide for storm survivors.
Following Thursday’s grant presentation, Massey said the group’s collaborative efforts will hopefully spread beyond the Ozarks. The LTRC and Rebuild Joplin are very aware of “Community C,” the next city (after New Orleans and Joplin) that will benefit from the experiences and lessons that Joplin’s organizations have collectively worked through.
“Hopefully what we’ve learned will give another community a chance to rebuild to a new level,” Massey said.
Also on Thursday, The Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri also awarded $110,975 in Joplin Recovery Fund grants as part of the foundation’s ongoing efforts to provide funds for organizations in need. These grants were not part of the $2.5 million housing round.