WKU group in Joplin helping multiple charities rebuild town

Bowling Green senior Anna Bewley, a 21-year-old elementary education major, helps move debris to the side of the street along with other WKU students and volunteers Friday afternoon in Joplin, Mo., just a few blocks from the edge of the “dead zone.” The city has promised to remove all garbage piled on the side of the street for free until Oct 15.

Tessa Duvall

JOPLIN, Mo. — As unexpected as the tornado was, the changes that have taken place in the four months since have been even more unexpected.

On May 21, Misti Linquist was a stay-at-home mom.

On May 22, the stage was set for Linquist to become the head of a disaster relief charity, although she didn’t know it yet.

Linquist, the 40-year-old Joplin, Mo., native, volunteered to help wash clothes immediately following an EF-5 tornado’s trip through her hometown. After placing a call to a local radio station letting them know of the help she was offering, she began receiving requests to take truck loads of supplies and clothes.

At first it was one pick-up truck full. And then it was seven. And then it was a semi-truck trailer. And then multiple semi-truck trailers.

As the donations began to pour in, so did the storage units. Less than two weeks after the tornado, three tents, six carports and five semi-truck trailers took over Linquist’s front yard.

“When it first happened, I was working anywhere from 20 to 22 hours a day,” she said. “I would be in my house long enough to take a shower, sleep for about 30 minutes and right back out there.”

Now, Linquist runs Misti’s Mission from her home in Joplin and plans to build a 14,400 square foot national disaster relief warehouse on her property.

“I’ve lived in Joplin my whole life, and, it just, there was just something that needed to be done,” Linquist said. “I’ve got the space to do it. I’ve got the time to do it. It just feels real good to help people. To get those smiles they give you, it’s awesome.”

On any given day, Misti’s Mission provides necessities such as clothes, personal care items and cleaning supplies to 10 to 40 Joplin families with the assistance of a number of volunteers.

Friday morning, a group of WKU students and an instructor assisting reconstruction efforts in Joplin began relief efforts at Misti’s Mission by sorting donations, loading boxes and moving carports. The students were covered in a fine coat of dirt and sweat, but their work put the mission ahead of schedule for the day.

Following Misti’s Mission, the group went to Relief Spark’s base camp on Joplin’s damaged section of South Main Street.

Claire Krueger, 53, of Joplin, was at base camp when the group arrived.

Krueger said her roof was rebuilt by a group of volunteers from Relief Spark and Drops of Grace, a Texas-based group, adding that Joplin is “so blessed” to have so many volunteers help with relief efforts.

“Good things can come of anything,” she said. “If it’s taken an F-5 tornado, it’s taken an F-5 tornado.”

The second task for the day involved moving several large piles of debris to the curbside for a home Relief Spark was repairing the roof on.

The city of Joplin will remove all debris placed on the curbside before Oct. 15 for free, making it a large priority for volunteer organizations.

“You got this, guys. You got this,” said David Serafini, a WKU history instructor and the chapter advisor for Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity to the students as they worked to move the piles.

For Isaac Bosse, a 21-year-old Harrodsburg junior, the trip to Joplin was originally something to do on fall break. But, after a day of working side-by-side with his fraternity brothers, Bosse has seen unexpected benefits from the trip.

“We just relied on each other,” Bosse said of the teamwork that developed. “I think in the future it’s just going to let us run a bit more smoothly.”

Bosse also personally saw benefits come from his efforts.

“It was just very eye-opening,” Bosse said. “You have a good feeling in your heart knowing you can really help out this person. You really, literally, put a roof over their head.

“It was nice knowing how many other people contributed, too. The world we’re in today, people always come together in tragedy, it seems like, and help each other out when they need it the most.”