Boys & Girls Club “Children of the Storm” Joplin Recovery Fund Update
Since 1957, the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri has provided a safe and reliable environment for children in the Joplin community. The destruction of the May 22nd tornado, which destroyed 13 child care centers, didn’t change this legacy. The Club was one of the few centers left with the capacity to provide emergency child care in the weeks following the storm. The Tuesday following the tornado, the Boys & Girls Club opened its doors for free emergency child care, despite the death of three members and six staff personnel losing homes.
Immediately, the Club provided care for 100 children. Within two weeks, that number doubled. The Boys & Girls Club also opened a temporary toddler room, and provided care for the children of relief workers and volunteers who fled to Joplin offering aid. In the weeks following the storm, the Club became a temporary distribution center for food and clothing, and 12 hour days turned into 16 hour days. “When you’re in a crisis, you don’t think about it,” says Rhonda Gorham, director of Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri. “It was the right thing to do. We’re here every day for the kids. We’re here every day for the community. That’s what we do. We can feed them, we can take care of them, we just have to say, ‘Come and we’ll take care of you.’”
Tornado survivor, Macy Clouse, is a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Missouri. She and her sister were riding bikes outside mere minutes before huddling with their mother in the hallway of their home while the tornado destroyed their apartment complex. “It was just scary, knowing that it ruined your life,” says Macy of the tornado destruction. In the wake of the destruction, Macy and her sister came to the Boys & Girls Club while their mother shuffled through debris and figured out their next move. “A lot of kids were here while parents were trying to get their lives back together…It felt good to play with my friends and get my mind off things.”
Through the loss of family, friends, homes, schools, churches, pets, and familiar surroundings, nearly every child was impacted by destruction. Boys & Girls Club ensured their members received counseling after the tornado. Representatives from the Ozark Center continue to make frequent visits to the Club, offering counseling services.
In the fall, the Boys & Girls Club, with a grant from CFSWMO’s Joplin Recovery Fund, provided scholarships for 20 students enrolled in the afterschool program, allowing students unable to afford the program to attend for free. The grant also included coverage for transportation from school to the Club.