Joplin: 5 Years Later

Joplin Missouri, was ravaged by a devastating E5 tornado. In the 12 months that followed, the community responded with an unmatched sense of hope and a determination to rebound. National Service is proud to have been a part of these recovery efforts and continues to provide services there today.

Within hours after the nation's deadliest tornado in nearly 60 years ripped through Joplin, killing 161 people and destroying some 7,500 homes and businesses, the first team of AmeriCorps members arrived.  
 
Members of AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team were first on the scene, arriving at 2:30 a.m.  AmeriCorps St. Louis, in coordination with the Missouri Community Service Commission, has a lead role for donations and volunteer coordination within the Missouri emergency response plan.  At the direction of emergency managers, members immediately went to work, setting up a missing persons hotline, staging an area for donations, and opening a volunteer center at Missouri Southern State University to handle the 3,000 volunteers who showed up the next day.  
 
In the year following the tornado, more than 350 AmeriCorps members from across the country served in Joplin. They removed tons of debris, provided homeowner assistance and casework, operated donation and distribution warehouses, provided legal services, and repaired and built homes. 
 
Most importantly, AmeriCorps members played a critical role in helping bring order, safety, and direction to more than 75,000 citizen volunteers who came to Joplin to offer needed assistance and hope.  In the first year, volunteers managed by AmeriCorps provided more than 500,000 hours of disaster assistance to more than 2,200 Joplin households.
 
Joplin city officials reported to FEMA that the city received donated resources and volunteer hours totaling $17.7 million, the largest amount in Missouri’s history and the largest amount ever recorded in FEMA’s Region VII. AmeriCorps members were instrumental to mobilizing this influx of volunteers and donations, which saved the city more than $17.7 million in disaster costs. 
 
More than a year after the tornado, AmeriCorps members were assisting with home-building and repair, reforestation, providing support to students in Joplin public schools, and managing volunteers, donations and homeowner requests.  In 2012, the Corporation for National and Community Service awarded an AmeriCorps grant to Rebuild Joplin to support 150 AmeriCorps members over three years to manage more than 16,000 volunteers help hundreds of families transition into permanent housing.
 

The outstanding work in Joplin and at other disaster sites led FEMA and AmeriCorps to formalize their relationship. Under President Obama’s direction, the two agencies developed and launched FEMA Corps in 2012.  This unit of the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps engages more than 1,000 members each year to support FEMA disaster response and longer term recovery efforts.  FEMA Corps strengthens disaster capacity, prepares young people for emergency management careers, and saves significant taxpayer dollars.  FEMA Corps members provided invaluable service in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and tornadoes in the Midwest. 

FEMA Corps has also helped FEMA innovate the way it does business.  After Hurricane Sandy, FEMA Corps members went door-to-door in some areas with laptops, helping residents who had lost power and Internet access sign up for disaster relief without leaving their homes.  This practice is now widely used at FEMA, and wis an example of how government is delivering services better, faster, more efficiently.

To mark the occasion, we take a look at Joplin's story of service and recovery over the last 5 years.

Stories of Service

AmeriCorps members moving rubbleAmeriCorps team assessing damage in JoplinAmeriCorps member moving plywood in JoplinAmeriCorps member sawing downed tree. AmeriCorps member on microphone in front of ruined house.AmeriCorps Helmet
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