I began my journey to Joplin (Mo.) today, not knowing exactly what to expect and remembering my first trip to New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast right after Katrina. It was déjà vu all over again.
Club professionals reflect on the rubble left by the tornado.
The destruction from the tornados, including the leveling of more than 8,000 homes, was hard to comprehend. Once thriving neighborhoods were reduced to rubble, displacing thousands of families. Five schools, a large hospital and medical center and numerous churches and businesses were totally destroyed.
But the Club was still standing, undamaged. Today it serves not just kids but the entire community. Under the leadership of its dedicated CPO, Rhonda Gorham, the Club is distributing food, clothing, and household goods to those who lost everything.
One third of the Club staff lost their homes, but they are still there everyday for the kids. Saddest of all, together the staff and all the Club kids grieve the loss of three Club members who lost their lives in the tornado.
True to form, the Boys & Girls Club family was there to support the Club. Neighboring Clubs raised funds to support the Joplin Club and community and drove van loads of supplies to the Club. One California Club sent a staff person to Joplin for a week and countless other Clubs reached out to help.
The Joplin community is determined to rebound and to support the families who lost everything. Even though there were shelters for the homeless, they went unused because those who still have homes opened their doors to those who did not.
The Joplin story --its people, its institutions and its Boys & Girls Club -- were dealt a serious blow. But Joplin will rise again, stronger and more compassionate than ever. And so will our Club.
President and CEO
Boys & Girls Clubs of America