Nearly ten months following the city’s heart wrenching loss of life, homes and schools, certain donations like food were ebbing lower. Folks were anticipating a new delivery of food in a few days that had been purchased by the church. Then, the shopping carts parked outside the domed buildings would be put to use. Nearing the one-year anniversary of the violent tornado’s visit, its impact was still evident by the hundreds of families, still awaiting permanent homes, who had become regulars.
“Our goal is that we need to continue helping until the FEMA trailers are out of Joplin,” explained Elizabeth Ford. She works as the Lead Supervisor of the Distribution Center that gives out food, hygiene products, paper goods and other items needed in temporary homes. Families are allowed to visit twice per month to restock on basics. Ford stressed that there is a screening process to determine need. She admitted that a few might do fine on their own. But then there are the grandparents now raising the children whose parents were killed in the storm. The injured and disabled. Those paralyzed by fear. Ford said, “we think there is still a need.” Volunteer Maggie Steele says, “It’s way beyond a cartful of groceries, what we want to do for this community.”
As a faith-based ministry, the Center is up-front about wanting to pray with people, asking their needs, concerns and fears. Coming around to another storm season adds a new dimension to the ministry. Steele says it’s common to pray with people once they’ve loaded up their car to head home, asking for good weather and calming anxieties. “A lot of them come here more for the mental support. They still need to talk about the tornado as much as they come here for the support of getting food. Our main goal is to build relationships with them and help them try to get on their feet on a long-term basis.” Steele and others take seriously what they see as the scriptural mandate to “feed the hungry” and more to help those in need. There is now an abundance of baby products like formula, baby food and diapers. Other essentials like cash, gift cards and food donations are needed. In addition to feeding victims, the church ministry is involved in feeding rotating groups of volunteers who arrive to help throughout Joplin. Ford said, “If we get food donated then they can spend a little more on their projects that they’re rebuilding.”