Joplin. Yes, there is despair. But there is also hope.

Today was Joplin day.

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.

Thanks to two dollies … and some very strong helpers (including my 8 and 5 year olds!) … we were able to quickly load up the UHaul and hit the highway.

We arrived at United Hebrew Congregation just before 2 p.m. The distribution center was quiet – a Father’s Day lull, UHC Board Secretary Terry Wheeler told us.

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.

… and the view from the balcony.


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.

This was someone’s home. All that’s left is a barrel planter and some foundation.

Homes marked by tell tale spray paint. The orange X’s were made by search-and-rescue in the day(s) after the tornado.

The cardboard sign reads: “This flag stands for all that are gone, but not forgotten. God help us all.”


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.


  1. The post, pictures, words of hope brought tears to my eyes. I agree with your assessment that the truly good people who contributed, volunteered, and you, Frankie, A and M surely brought hope to those in Joplin, MO. I am so proud and humbled by your good work dear daughter.

    Love, Mom

  2. Thank you for sharing this – what an incredible mitzvah you did. Beautiful!
    (Oh, and I *love* that your mom wrote a comment to you. Awesome!!!)

  3. Not only did you bring comfort and compassion to the folks in Joplin, and enable so many to do mitzvot through your efforts, but the lesson your boys learned today will stick with them far more than hundreds of lessons on tzedakah. You are truly a blessing to this community!

  4. What a moving day for you and your family. And what a ‘growing’ experience for your children.

  5. Thank you for sharing. You and your family are such an inspiration.

  6. How great that your mother let you know how proud she is of you. As you know, I was supposed to leave a large package for Joplin with you when I was in the KC area last week. The Lord works in mysterious ways! My huge donation box and a few bags went to another deserving group I came across just the weekend before. I couldn’t say, “No”. So, I spent about 3 days of my vacation restocking for Joplin! I didn’t get the great deals I had before, and it wasn’t as much, but I was able to donate 4 bags of items to a drugstore in Ava, MO who was taking down non-perishables to Joplin the next day. Then, on our drive home to AZ, we had to divert our route because of all the wild fires in TX, NM, and AZ, so we ended up going through Joplin anyway. It was exactly as you describe in your blog. The pics say it well. It gave my husband and me chills, and we found ourselves crying. There just aren’t any words. Thank you Mara for you and your family having the warm spirits to help the way you do. These people need you so much.

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