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Joplin Journey - Group Lends Helping Hand
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Oakdale resident Gene Gilton stands next to an American flag amidst all the destruction in Joplin, Missouri. He and other members of the Oakdale Family Church of the Nazarene as well as other Gilton employees took relief supplies to Joplin on June 1 and have stayed several days to perform cleanup and other helping duties. - photo by Photo Contributed
A contingent of Oakdale citizens has been in Joplin, Missouri for the past week, helping the town recover from a devastating tornado that happened just over two weeks ago.
“Richard Gilton came up with this idea to head to Joplin and help,” said Oakdale resident and Nazarene church member Janelle Sheveland. “It started with just himself and grew quickly to 66 people including employees of Gilton Resource Waste Management, Oakdale Family Church of the Nazarene, Crossroads Church of the Nazarene and a few other churches from other parts of California.”
Church members and Gilton’s company began collecting supply donations shortly after the tornado. Items such as non-perishable foods, can openers, bottled water, diapers, bedding, and more were needed by the residents of Joplin who lost everything.
“Richard put the word out and donations started rolling in,” Sheveland said. “It was absolutely amazing to see the generosity of our surrounding communities.”
The group of trucks and trailers left Oakdale at 6 a.m. on June 1, arriving the next evening in Joplin. They had orientation with local groups in Joplin Friday morning, then they were off.
Sheveland’s husband Jeff is also with the group. A licensed contractor, he has been instrumental in being able coordinate actual cleanup and building efforts. He was asked to frame a disaster response command center for the Joplin Family Worship Center, Janelle Sheveland said. Other members of the group helped clean up debris and also assisted with framing of walls for the church. Also among the group are an Oakdale High School graduate and an OHS sophomore who have helped with the cleanup of fallen trees in Joplin as well.
Sheveland also reported that her husband and Richard Gilton first had to meet with FEMA representatives in the area to get clearance to go in and help. She explained that disaster victims must sign over their homes to FEMA in order to get help from the agency, but any groups who go to the area must also coordinate with the local churches to have access. She added that the Oakdale Nazarene church senior pastor James Payton contacted the Nazarene church in Carthage, Missouri, outside of Joplin to accomplish this task.
As for accommodations, the group is staying in the dorms at Messenger College in Joplin.
“What a blessing that has been. Showers, beds and laundry facilities have really helped them out,” Sheveland said.
She noted that her husband has been very busy but has e-mailed her with information stating that there are “dramatic scenes” and that all the people have been accounted for and that funerals had begun. While numbers in reports have varied, the official loss of life was 134 people.
Sheveland reported that some tasks the group has been involved in have included putting tarps on roofs, building walls, tree removal, debris pick-up, and finding personal treasures amongst the rubble for people who haven’t made it back to sort through their belongings.
“They have spent a lot of time just sitting and listening to peoples’ stories,” Sheveland said. “A lot of them have just needed an ear to hear them tell their stories.”
She added that the group has reported that the people of Joplin are “amazing.” They have been kind and very generous.
Some members of the group started their return trip on June 6, while the others will begin their trek home today, Wednesday, June 8. Sheveland added that they had a lot of work they committed to do before leaving.