Volunteers Help Mend Joplin after Tornado Disaster

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JOPLIN, Mo. -- Cleaning up the debris in the wake of the tornado that hit Joplin on May 22 is a mammoth undertaking. 

But federal state and local officials are getting off to a good start with the help of thousands of volunteers who continue to stream in from around the country. 

One Marine, who was home on leave before deploying to Afghanistan in a few weeks, wanted to help his neighbors.

"I'm here on pre-deployment right now with my family, and the tornado just came through and destroyed everything. So I felt that it was just my civil duty to come and help out as much as possible before I actually go overseas," Lance Cpl. Daniel Hopping told CBN News.

A command center near the damaged St. John Medical Center coordinates where each team will operate. Churches around the city have become feeding centers and are also distributing aid to those in need.

K-9 to the Rescue

Many of the survivors who have shown up at these distributions centers have lost friends and loved ones.

One thing they can't get here is closure. That's going to come from a specially equipped team searching for many of the hundreds of people who are still missing. And they are employing some four-legged friends for help.

Missy Epperson started the Mid-America K9 Search and Rescue in 1995. The team of medical professionals and other volunteers responds to disasters with dogs specially trained to sniff out people who are trapped beneath the rubble. 

"We've been to Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11, Katrina and now Joplin, Mo." Epperson told CBN News.

When the group heard about the devastation in Joplin, they knew they had to go.

"We mount up. We tell where we're going to meet at, and that's where we go," Epperson explained.

So far, Mid-America K9's efforts are paying off. One man thanked the team for rescuing him after being trapped in his basement for two days.

Rebuilding for the Long-Term

The physical needs in the tornado-devastated town will continue long after the last missing person are found. CBN's Operation Blessing International is in Joplin making arrangements to help the residents rebuild for the long term. 

"Operation Blessing is delivering truckloads of food and water," said Jody Gettys, director of Operation Blessing U.S. Disaster Relief.

"But in addition to that, we're actually going to be running volunteer teams that help the residents to directly begin to recover the contents of their homes, remove the debris so they can begin to rebuild their lives," she said.

"We come into a community. We work with local churches, helping empower them because they know the needs better than we do as outsiders," she told CBN News.

"So we begin to work together as the body of Christ to serve the community in the best way possible," she said.

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Chuck Holton

Chuck Holton

CBN News Reporter

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