Locals reach out to Joplin residents

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Buffalo Island volunteers are answering the call for help from residents in Joplin, Mo., and area, hard hit on May 23 by a devastating tornado.

Lake City Mayor Jon Milligan, Kenneth Winford, and Robert Chambers.

Kenneth Winford of Lake City recalls vividly hearing the news of so many deaths and so much devastation as a result of the violent storm that hit Joplin. He searched his mind for something he could do to help the people during their time of crisis. He soon found out he was surrounded by people with that same desire.

"I just felt that God was commanding me to go," Winford said. "I asked my friend Brad Vaughn to go with me up to Joplin and look around and see what we could do to help. We arrived on Saturday, May 28, and made our way into the hardest hit area of Joplin. It looked like a war zone. I could easily see how so many people had lost their lives there...their homes and businesses were just a pile of rubble.

"Out of the debris stood a small church that looked like it should have not been standing. Buildings all around Grace Baptist Church were flattened and yet it remained in tact. We walked up to the church and found that the little church of 150 members was feeding 700 to 1,000 people, and had been doing that every day. They had displaced families there by the hundreds and volunteers who had come in to help them. The little church was running out of money quick, but was committed to helping those in need.

"We were met by the church pastor, who could tell at a glance we had come to help. That little church was not only providing food, but clothing, transportation, clean-up and building supplies and organizing volunteers. We asked him to make a list of things they needed that we could help supply. He quickly wrote down over 60 things most requested by the neighborhood. We soon headed back to Lake City to try to fill that list and to enlist workers."

The hand written note consisted of basic things needed for survival, like non-perishable food, flashlights, toilet items, paper supplies, garbage bags, mops, first-aid kits, air mattresses, box fans, small grills, charcoal, lighters, coolers, shovels, rakes, hoes, hammers, chain saws, wet/dry vacuums, tarps, plywood, paint rollers and brushes, and even stamps and envelopes.

Soon word reached the Lake City volunteers that food and water needs in Joplin had been met, but not many of the other basic supplies.

"At church that next Sunday, I told of our experience the day before and the need for help and supplies," Winford said. "Jeff Spencer walked up to me and volunteered the use of his new 18-wheeler truck to use to take supplies to Joplin. Donald Hood, a licensed driver, volunteered to drive the truck. Before the day was over we had 20 volunteers willing to go."

Mayor Jon Milligan was in Hot Springs, but when word reached him, he quickly offered his help to get the word out to city residents and area people.

"I just feel like this is a God thing, helping others in need," Milligan said. "All our communities in the Eastern District are quick to band together when there is a need, and this was indeed a need. People have helped Lake City when we needed help, and I knew it was our time to offer our help."

Soon volunteers from Monette, Caraway, Black Oak, Leachville, Manila, Bay, and Brookland were making contact with Winford and Milligan and bringing things over for the trip to Joplin.

Robert Chambers of Monette printed flyers and distributed them throughout the city, to churches and businesses. The Monette American Legion in Monette has become a drop-off point and was open at 8 a.m. on Monday.

Brookland City Hall is another drop-off point, as well as city halls throughout the eastern area and Mississippi County.

The Spencer truck has been positioned in the Lake City First Baptist Church parking lot and is quickly filling up. Items from adjacent drop-off points will be brought to Lake City and be prepared for shipping on the target date of June 9. A second truck has been donated for use by Ted Qualls, and Ritter Company has offered the use of a forklift and pallets for organizing supplies.

"This is not a short term project, nor a quick fix," Winford said. "It is going to take a lot of construction and repair to get the people of Joplin back on their feet. Many workers will be needed for a long time. Lodging is being provided at a college close to Grace Baptist Church, if people can come and work just a few days, or weeks. We are so thankful for the outpouring of support from the Lake City area and are busy organizing transportation and facilities for workers."

For more information concerning donations and workers persons can contact Kenneth Winford at 870-273-8675.

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