Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- Walgreen on 20th Street and Range Line re-opens after it was destroyed by the EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011. Walls and a roof on the building only took nine days to build. FEMA is in the city to provide assistance to the disaster survivors.
On August 22, three months following the devastating tornado, I visited Joplin, Missouri. I wanted to see first-hand how the public and private sector were working hand-in-hand in recovery, bringing their community back – stronger and better than before. While touring the area, I met some amazing business owners and managers who are making things happen for their employees, neighbors, businesses and the community as a whole.
I visited with Darren Fullerton, vice president of Student Affairs at Missouri Southern State University (MSSU). MSSU was not in the path of the storm, so it was not damaged, but MSSU provided housing for survivors , first responders, and AmeriCorps volunteers. Their Health Science Building served as a temporary hospital and a temporary mortuary was set up as well. MSSU started the fall semester on time, as did schools that were damaged in the tornado – without missing a beat!
Joplin, MO, August 10, 2011 -- Firefighters who were first on the scene when an EF-5 tornado on May 22, 2011 tore a path in Joplin participated in the opening ceremony of the "I AM JOPLIN" event, a back-to-school gathering attended by thousands of school-aged children and their parents at Missouri Southern State University.
Moved by the Medicine Shoppe
I was moved by my visit to the Medicine Shoppe, a small business pharmacy whose building was destroyed. The morning after the storm, owners David and Sherree Starrett mustered their team. Working together with numerous community partners, friends and their insurance company, they were able to lease a new location, find new shelving, and begin calling all of their customers. The outpouring of support allowed them to reopen for business just six days after the tornado tore through Joplin. The Medicine Shoppe is a great example of small business recovery!
Lowe’s commitment to the community
Lowe’s demonstrated that the health and safety of the community comes first. As one of the few places in Joplin that still had power and phone service that fateful Sunday evening, they were instrumental to the immediate response in the Joplin community. When the fire chief told the store manager that they needed a mobile triage center for the injured, Lowe’s offered their facility and provided refrigerators to store blood during the response. They’ve also hosted FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation team members in their store, teaching homeowners about safe building techniques and rebuilding stronger after the storm.
More partners help spread the word
I met with Walmart, Chick-fil-A, Papa Johns, Con-way Truckload and Lamar Outdoor Advertising – all instrumental to the “I Am Joplin” event, to celebrate the return to school. They all helped in so many ways. I learned that Walgreens built a brand new store in just 83 days – a new record. I also toured the Home Depot tent and saw the construction efforts at their new building. They are including a safe room as part of that new construction – another first and a great example of preparedness, protection and mitigation. These companies and so many more members of the private sector in Joplin are proving themselves leaders in recovery.
Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce has also been a strong and caring leader in local business recovery. From the first day, they have been on the ground contacting every business that was in the tornado’s path, to assess the damage level and to discuss paths to recovery. I met with Gary Box, their Business Retention & Expansion Coordinator, and Rob O’Brian, Chamber President. They have already made historic strides in leading recovery and they have a plan for the future.
Joplin is a successful model and reminder that it takes the whole of community to recover. As we prepare for Hurricane Irene, we can be inspired to prepare and respond as a team as well.
Joplin, MO, August 22, 2011 -- David Starrett (left) owner of the Medicine Shoppe, meets with Dan Stoneking, director of FEMA's private sector division. The Medicine Shoppe store was able to reopen in a new location just six days after the tornado through working together with community partners, friends and their insurance company.