Employers Support Reservist Volunteer Time in Joplin

June 23, 2011

patricia henryOne month after a devastating tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, Hope Force Reservists such as Patricia Henry are beginning to see the city and community begin to rebuild what has been lost. ?I was deeply moved by the suffering and loss that I witnessed,? Henry said. ?But I also saw a slow but steady recovery within the town and the hearts of the people as well.?

Reservists, like Pat Henry, are volunteers from around the nation who give up time to help disaster relief projects. She spent one week in Joplin, where she worked as needed, completing various jobs such as answering telephones, and assisting those who needed information. She also participated in on-site work occasionally.

Her main task, though, was to create a management process for the assignment of hotel rooms for the volunteers and out of town Salvation Army staff. It was here that she met and spoke with many people who experienced the destruction first hand. She recounts that one staff member had lost the home he was renting, but still served as a first responder to the disaster. During his on-site duty, he had pulled victims from the rubble - something that will probably stay in his memory for years.

joplin employers 1Yet, the stories of destruction weren?t just second-hand accounts for Patricia. Some she witnessed herself. She recalls driving through the disaster scene multiple times a day as she went to and from hotels. She said she was amazed to see a destroyed home with only a book shelf remaining that still held books, or a destroyed fabric store called JoAnn?s with one wall left of bolted bright materials.

?The emptiness of the standing wall and the shell of JoAnn?s was a physical picture of the emptiness one could see in the eyes of some of the people whose lives appeared to be just an empty shell of what once was. The shock and unbelief of such loss in just a matter of minutes will always be in my memory. But the hope of God that was spread by members of Hope Force will likewise be in my memory and in the hearts of the people of Joplin.?

Volunteering in Joplin was her first time to work as a Hope Force reservist. Originally, she said, she had recorded her time helping with the disaster as a week of her personal vacation from work. However upon returning home she learned that her employer, the HNTB companies, did not require her to take vacation time while she served in Joplin. Instead, they paid her an authorized absence.

?What an amazing story about [her] employer?s generosity! That encourages us as well,? Sue Duby, training coordinator for Hope Force International said. ?It truly takes a big team to serve and every person?s role makes a huge difference in the big picture.?

joplin employers 2On her last day in Joplin, Henry attended a debriefing meeting held by the Salvation Army captains.* They told her that it was a comfort to know they had a place to stay after working on-site without having to worry about accommodations or payments. Henry said that this was just one way in which Hope Force touched the victims and volunteers of Joplin.

?Hope Force personnel were faithful, caring and gave 110%,? Patricia said. ?I believe the people of Joplin who came in contact with them experienced the kindness and concern of God and felt cared for when they left. This does not just apply to the residents of Joplin, but also the volunteers with whom the Hope Force people worked. I met people from all over the country who came together to serve in this disaster. Each of them were willing to do whatever was needed to accomplish the task they were sent there to do. I realized we each had a part to play and that working together we were making a difference in both the physical and personal rebuilding of the people of Joplin.?

*Hope Force International is a national partner of the Salvation Army, with a signed Memorandum of Understanding that provides a protocol for partnership in times of significant disaster events.

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