AmeriCorps grant for Joplin effort ends soon

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — One of the key groups helping with Joplin’s recovery from the May 2011 tornado will leave the city at the end of the year.

AmeriCorps St. Louis, which city officials credit with being the “workhorses” behind the recovery, will turn over its duties to Joplin’s Long-Term Recovery Committee, a group of relief agencies and faith-based groups on Dec. 21, when a grant that provided a seven-member team will end, The Joplin Globe reported Friday.

Chad Angell, the team leader of AmeriCorps’ Joplin Recovery Project, said he and other group members will spend the rest of their time in Joplin working for a smooth transition.

“It’s a pretty fluid change,” Angell said. “We’ve been working with these organizations for a year and a half. We’re confident in the community to continue our work here.”

Renee White, chairwoman of the Long-Term Recovery Committee, said she and city officials have been working with AmeriCorps since August to take over the group’s work.

“Because of the great things AmeriCorps has done, it won’t be just one organization taking over,” she said. “We’ll have to parcel it out because they really have been the foot soldiers and the workhorses behind so much of the recovery.”

In the weeks immediately after the tornado devastated Joplin, killing 161 people, AmeriCorps staff members created a volunteer reception center and a missing persons call center, and took volunteers to help with debris removal and search and rescue efforts. In recent weeks, they have helped people move into permanent housing, delivered donations and assisted with minor repair jobs.

They also coordinated volunteer efforts and tracked their hours. Sam Anselm, assistant city manager, said future volunteer coordination will likely go through Rebuild Joplin, he said.

“Words almost can’t describe what they’ve done for us,” Anselm said of AmeriCorps. “It’s just a good group of people. I can say with certainty that we wouldn’t be far along in the recovery without them.”

Angell, who arrived with an AmeriCorps team hours after the tornado struck, said it has been a positive experience helping to rebuild the city.

“Sometimes in disaster, it’s really hard for people to accept others from outside the community,” he said. “It’s our job to respond, train the community and leave. Joplin embraced us and asked us to stay.”

After the holidays, AmeriCorps St. Louis will assess whether the organization might be needed in Joplin longer, Angell said. He said AmeriCorps officials are considering establishing a base in southwest Missouri, possibly in Springfield, for future disasters.

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