last joplin Mission Joplin: Volunteer Experience Leaves Lasting Memories

A group of Tarrant County volunteers in Joplin, Missouri. (credit: Stewart McKenzie)

JOPLIN, Mo. (CBSDFW.COM) – Around 5:40 p.m. on Thursday in Joplin, Missouri, it was hot, humid, with very few clouds and only a slight breeze.  The weather was a far cry from that same time on May 22.

That’s when an EF-5 tornado left a mark on the city in southwest Missouri that will take years to recover from.

Nearly 70 volunteers from Tarrant County churches wrapped up a mission trip to help with storm cleanup.  In three days, the men, women, boys and girls helped demolish houses, clean up yards littered with debris and simply listen to, and counsel, storm survivors as they recount the details of escaping the wrath of the killer storm.

The images of destruction will stay with volunteers.  Greg Jaymes of Keller thought the damage would be only a few blocks long; instead it stretched for about six miles.

“It totally took me by surprise,” reflected Jaymes.

The mission trip is the second time Jaymes has traveled somewhere in the U.S. to help storm victims.  He also volunteered in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina left parts of that state under water.

Even with the devastation he’s seen, Jaymes is considering more mission efforts when the opportunity presents itself.  “I think mission work is just a great way to get out and help.”

The kindness of Joplin residents, in the midst of tragedy also impressed the Tarrant County volunteers.

As afternoon approached and the heat index neared 105-degrees on Thursday, the group continued to work.

Jonathan Meza of Fort Worth remembers a couple of Joplin residents driving up to him and other volunteers and asking if they needed water.  They also thanked the volunteers for their efforts.

“To me that was very touching,” said Meza.

As the group of Tarrant County volunteers put in their last day of hard work they couldn’t help being impresses by the hundreds of volunteers who were just arriving. They came from as far as Wyoming and Indiana, and there were more from other parts of Texas.

“There’s a lot of good, hard-working people that are willing to spend part of their life to help rebuild,” said Logan Green of Euless.

The Tarrant County group prepares to leave Missouri and return home to family and friends, but more re-enforcements are on the way from North Texas.  A church group from Decatur was among those who’d arrived to begin their volunteer work.

The cycle of support starts again.  Memories are made.  And Joplin appreciates the love and support.

(Note: Stewart McKenzie is the 6:00 p.m. producer for CBS 11 News. He is part of a local volunteer group that traveled to Joplin this week to help with the relief efforts. While helping with those efforts, he is also provide reports on the work that is underway and the people of Joplin who are recovering from the killer tornado.)