KIMBERLING CITY - Missouri has had a rough year. In April it will be a year since the Good Friday destroyed parts of North County and flood waters forever changed lives in the South East and North west part of our state. In May, a year since the Joplin F5 tornado took 161 lives in St. Louis and spring is just getting started for us. Central Missouri has fought wildfires since the fall, and then the Leap Year Tornado took 3 lives across the state, affecting thousands of people. In the wake of all this destruction, good has prevailed. AmeriCorps St. Louis, still committed to Joplin and the flooding in the Northwest, and having fielded hundreds of volunteers for the Leap Year tornado remains part of that good. My team has amazed and inspired me. Reminded me why hard times bring out the best in people. And why this group of 34 young folks, so committed to national service, has changed the lives of many this year in Missouri and will undoubtedly continue this ethic of service for the rest of their lives. To each one of you, and the support you have behind you, including the rest of our program, your family and friends, I thank you. You are my reason.
The last few weeks have been a whirl wind for me, I have probably covered a ¼ of the state for tornados, wild fires, prescribed burns, and Joplin’s recovery, offering our Emergency Response Team’s assistance where ever we go. I am planning on heading back to St. Louis today to catch up on the necessary office work that is less inspiring than the variety of work I have been consumed by. Sitting in our VRC based out of the Branson Chamber of Commerce for the final days before we transition to a local church and make this a complete local effort, in walked a reminder. A reminder of the type of people that fill Missouri and the Mid West. A reminder of what it means to take care of your neighbor. A reminder of the value and spirit of service. A reminder of why I have chosen this as my life path. Following an energetic group from Texas willing to do and buy whatever would help Misti and 10 other volunteers came in. To most of the other people in the VRC, this was just another volunteer, but I knew Misti from Joplin. She had survived the Joplin tornado and turned her 5 acre property into a donation center, taking in resources sent from surrounding areas to support the community of Joplin. What started as just a way to help in whatever way she could, became an official 501(C)3 , Misti’s Mission, and has continued almost 10 months after the storm. But now, Misti, and her team of volunteers have come to help Branson and Taney county recover. Have paid it forward. Have continued the unyielding survival spirit of Missouri and reinforced the ideals that make me proud to be a Missouri transplant, and even prouder to be part of AmeriCorps St. Louis and the role we play in coordinating volunteers, and making groups like Misti’s volunteer experience as meaningful and rewarding as possible.
- Quinn Gardner - Field and Operations Coordinator, Emergency Response Team