Stefanie Cope

Staff Writer

Columbus Area Churches have been lending their hands to help relief efforts currently underway in Joplin, Mo. after an EF-5 tornado ravaged the area on May 22.

Carolyn Eddington who is part of the CAC said they have had some meetings to try and decide what kind of help they can offer to the Joplin area. She also said there have been individual church efforts helping with the relief.

Eddington said the CAC plans to have a fundraiser in the near future to help children in Joplin. She said they are planning the fundraiser to be around the time school starts and they hope to direct the money towards charities in place for the children who have lost their schools. She said unless there is a more immediate need for the money elsewhere they plan on continuing to put together this fundraiser.

Julie Cassidy, who also works with the CAC, said they have not picked a date yet because the sense of urgency for volunteers and donations have lessened with the outpouring of help which has already come to Joplin.

“The need is going to be there for a long time.” Cassidy said.

Cassidy said they will probably wait until school starts because the fundraisers they have done before for disasters were most successful then.

Cassidy also said with the city-wide garage sales coming up anyone who has left over furniture can take it to Watered Gardens in Joplin. She said it is one of the only places in Joplin taking donations of furniture and appliances.

The Columbus Christian Church is also helping the relief efforts. Susan Schultz of the church said they are currently taking donations for Joplin. She said the church is taking cash donations for the Week of Compassion and the youth group is taking donations of toiletries, baby items and other items. She also said there are volunteers from the church heading to Joplin and helping sort donations at the different stations in Joplin that are taking all of the donations in. She said the church plans to continue helping with relief efforts for Joplin.

Other churches in the area are also doing their best to help the relief efforts.

Riverton Friends Church is taking a different approach to the relief efforts.

Pastor Wes Davis said they are handing out relief questionnaires to the people affected by the tornado. He said the questionnaire asks for things like clothing sizes, what kind of clean up help they need and if they need housing or vehicles. He said they get in touch with natural contacts like families and friends so they make sure there is someone they can speak with. Davis said they then adopt the family out to a Riverton Friends Church family who can help meet the needs of the affected family. He said the church families can help with many needs including groceries, clothing, housing and more specific needs like medication and diapers.

He said the church has also been sending out work crews every day to help with debris and labor work in the area.

Davis said the church is also taking donations.

“The people have been very generous.” Davis said.

He said people have brought in food, diapers, cleaning supplies as well as rakes and brooms.

He said the needs of the people of Joplin have changed. He said they are more focused on debris cleanup and finding housing for the displaced citizens of Joplin. He said the church helps by handing out help packets and getting the information the citizens need to them. He also said when the church cannot help they direct the citizens to someone who can.

He said anyone is welcome to drop donations off at the Riverton Friends Church Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Marty McCord,  director of associational missions for the Southeast Kansas Baptist Association, in Altamont, said they will be sending in local crews soon. He said the state level disaster response will be ending their work this week and so local crews will be brought in. He said he has been working closely with Steve Patterson of the Spring River Baptist Church to help decide what kinds of needs they can meet. McCord said they will be helping with financial donations as well as physical donations and volunteer work.

“The financial need will be so large because there were many families who were left with nothing.” McCord said.

McCord said among the Baptist churches in Joplin 11 lives were lost, 140 families were displaced and two churches were destroyed. One of those churches was Harmony Heights Baptist Church. McCord said there was a real miracle when the church was destroyed. He said there were 53 people in that church for their Sunday evening service and 50 survived.

McCord said they will probably have crews in for most of the summer. He said the needs have changed because the initial disaster response has come to a close. He said they will now be moving into the bulldozer work phase.

McCord said they will also be helping families put their lives back together. He said there are families without jobs, cars, homes, and basic necessities.

McCord said the association will be housing volunteers at Weir Baptist Camp to help take some of the strain of finding a place for volunteers off of Joplin. He said at some point throughout the summer it will also become a staging area for volunteers from the Kansas side of the volunteer effort. He said a church in western Nebraska recently sent 500 pounds of ground beef to help feed the volunteers housed at the camp.

“I am not sure what the efforts will entail,” McCord said, “We will make sure our efforts meet the needs in the area.

“Joplin was not just a Missouri town, It’s a four state town.”

For more information on ways to help go to http://www.joplinmo.org/tornadoinfo.cfm.