Four weeks ago, an EF-5 tornado cut a swath of destruction and despair three-quarters of a mile wide and six miles long.
A week later, I asked you to join me in collecting donations to stock the emergency distribution center at Joplin’s United Hebrew Congregation.
Your donations have poured in — enough to fill an eight-foot long trailer … and to swell my heart beyond measure!
Today, Father’s Day, my husband, sons and I headed down to Joplin with all of your generosity in tow.
In the shul’s social hall, a dozen tables hosted an eclectic collection of second-hand clothing, shoes, purses… and the world’s largest stack of Harlequin novels.
There were also a handful of personal and baby care items, but most of those supplies had been sorely depleted. “We can’t seem to keep them in stock,” Terry reported.
Our little trailer had arrived just in time!
An hour later, we had unloaded and unpacked six-dozen boxes. Teetering stacks of diapers, first aid supplies, personal care products (and so much more) were ready and waiting.
And if those in need can’t find what they are looking for among the supplies, UHC can now hand them a $10 giftcard to Walmart. (You should have seen Terry’s face when I handed her that impressive stack of $1,800 worth of giftcards - thank you!)
The Temple’s distribution center has been open since the tornado struck four weeks ago. The first ten days, people poured in off the streets, Terry’s husband told us. But traffic has slowed, Terry explained, since most of the homeless are now sleeping in emergency shelters or staying with friends.
Demand will pick up again in a few weeks, she predicted, when the emergency shelters close and people have to find more permanent housing solutions.
Yes, there is so much despair, and with years to go until Joplin can be fully rebuilt, it appears unending.
But, there is also hope. Thanks to the generosity of friends and strangers, it even seems to be meted out in (nearly) equal measure.
After we helped the Wheelers unpack all of the KOAB donations, we enjoyed a quick tour of Joplin’s gorgeous, 100-year old plus synagogue. Isn’t it stunning?
I loved these stained glass windows.
We said goodbye to our new friends and climbed back into the van to tour Joplin’s hardest hit area.
It seems like such a cliché to say “words can not describe”, but truly, words can.not describe.
That is the single word that kept trailing through my thoughts.
Our boys marveled. And recoiled. And then, after street after street after street of utter desolation and destruction, they asked if we could go home.
It was all too much.
If you can stomach it, here are some photos I took – which also do a paltry job of conveying the true horror.
On our way out of town, we stopped at the AmeriCorps Rescue Center. A member of my shul had asked us to drop off a package for a volunteer she knew who was stationed there.
These some 150 young men and women (ages 18-26) are the faces of selflessness. For a year or more they have committed their lives to disaster relief. They witness the worst of horrors, while quietly stepping in to meet the “unmet needs”. And oh, there are so many.
Thank you for letting me and my family be your conduit of chesed. I believe your generosity sparked hope in Joplin today.