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Around the Columns

Pitching in for Joplin

When a large tornado devastated Joplin, Mo., May 22, 2011, junior hospitality management major Morgan Adrian and her family were among the thousands to lose their homes and belongings. Ever since then, the Mizzou Alumni Association and some of its chapters have been lending their support — physical, emotional and financial.

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Shortly after the storm, Adrian, a 2011 Homecoming tridirector and daughter of alumni Claire, BA ’94, and Matt, BJ ’91, JD ’94, started hearing from friends. “The Homecoming Steering Committee helped right away. I never stopped getting texts and Facebook messages asking if I was emotionally OK, and asking what they could do. They sent a really nice note showing support to me and my family.” Without such support, she says, it would have been a much darker time in her life.

Working through Americorps, the Homecoming Steering Committee volunteered in Joplin on Memorial Day weekend to help dismantle damaged homes and pick up debris. “The first site was a house that collapsed,” Adrian says. “We moved all the debris within 10 feet of the curb. At the second site, we pulled apart the house siding and hauled it to the curb. When you do that work, you find pieces of people’s lives — books, toys, Christmas cards and documents of a life. It’s surreal, and it touched us all. And we were so sore the next day.”

The association pitched in by offering Traditions Fund monies ($3,000) to replace funds the Joplin chapter typically raised at its annual golf tournament. “So, despite the devastation, the chapter still gave a scholarship for an MU student from Joplin,” says Jayson Meyer, director of alumni relations for the association.

Association chapters across the country have supported Joplin, its 69 students and roughly 1,200 MU alumni, to the tune of more than $10,000, Meyer says. “We did not prompt this response. But it’s part of a growing trend to provide local service in the name of Mizzou. Their efforts shine a spotlight far and wide on the university.”

The spotlight shines as far as New York City, where Marina Shifrin, BJ ’10, suggested that the local chapter, MizzouNYC, host a comedy night to raise money for Joplin. The result was Jokes for Joplin, held on the evening of Aug. 3, 2011, at Blackstone’s in Manhattan, where the chapter hosts sports watch parties. Seven comedians performed stand-up routines and raised $500 from the 50 alumni and friends in attendance.

Two of the comics, Shifrin and Justin Williams, Arts ’04, attended MU, says Sydney Snider, BS Acc, M Acc ’05, chapter president. The other comics were Sagar Bhatt, Chris Nester, Mark Norman, Gary Vider, Jeff Wesselschmidt and Luke Younger. All donated their time and talent. Along with other efforts, the chapter raised a total of $1,800. 

Other chapter fundraisers included:

• Boston’Zou Chapter auction, $1,540

• Houston Texas Tigers collection effort, $124

• Kansas City Chapter social and raffle, $3,350

• St. Louis Chapter Paws for a Cause, $859

• Valley of the Sun Chapter (Phoenix) social and auction, $2,700

Since the Homecoming Steering Committee volunteered in Joplin, Adrian has kept them up to date on progress. “I send them pictures of the sites we worked on. These days, the town is pretty much flat, with not many signs of the tornado.” She says construction projects are sprouting everywhere, and a large swath of her hometown is unrecognizable.

Still, she is grateful for how her family came through the storm. “We call it the new normal. Joplin will never be like we knew it, but I have new perspective on life in general. What we went through has made us an even stronger family. What we lost is replaceable.”