Building Community Bridges started its mission to uplift youth in Jefferson City through a basketball program intended to teach children life skills.
It's only fitting Lorenzo Davis Jr., BCB's president and athletic director, attributes the organization's response after the May 22 tornado to the teamwork of its staff and volunteers.
Davis, along with BCB founder Doug Wright, Director of Operations Alicia Edwards and cook Roger Mitchell, knew immediately BCB had a role to play in uplifting the Jefferson City community after the storm.
"Once the tornado hit, me and Roger, we came out here at like 2 o'clock in the morning to BCB and just started checking on the neighbors, making sure everybody was located, because it was so dark. And it was just people in the streets, just running around; nobody really knew what to do; everybody was in shock and kind of just distraught," Davis said. "And we sat there and called Doug and Alicia and said, 'We just need to do something.'"
Initially they hoped to open the BCB building at 213 E. Ashley St. — just a couple of blocks from a main center of the tornado's damage on Jackson Street — for people who lost their homes to stay in.
"But a lot of people, you know, were just so traumatized they didn't want to leave; they just wanted to stay in their house no matter what shape it was in," Davis said.
Then donations of food, clothing and other necessities started showing up. BCB Outreach Coordinator Gabby Jahr started visiting homes of families she knew in the area to keep them stocked with what they needed until electricity was restored.
Donations kept coming.
"So we created a free store to let people come in and get the things that they need just to survive day to day. We would give them boxes of food, toiletries, Pampers, things like that," Davis said. "I think a lot of people just wanted to help some kind of way. It was good to see people come together like that."
In a letter nominating Davis to be recognized for his work after the tornado, a community member wrote: "One thing that strikes me about Lorenzo is he's a young man with a young family, including an infant. But he gave tirelessly of both his time and money to help his community when they needed it most."
Davis acknowledged the intense time spent away from his day job and his family — his wife and four children ranging in age from 8 months to 12 years — was overwhelming at times. But he also took the opportunity to involve them in as much of BCB's disaster response as he could.
"I know it was frustrating being away, doing for others when you should be home doing for your own," he said. " It's good teaching them to do something positive, just out of your heart because it's what you know you need to do."
The experience affected him as well as Building Community Bridges as a whole.
"We started out helping kids in the community, and in order to continue helping the kids, we've got to help the adults," Davis said. " It was just an instinct to help — because we'd already been helping, just changing the way that we help."
Other "Heroes of the Storm"
There were nearly 20 individuals and organizations who received plaques Saturday, Aug. 27, 2019, at a ceremony recognizing them as "Heroes of the Storm" for their actions during the May 22 tornado. Read their stories: