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STLCC Students Work to Change Lives Devastated by Joplin Tornado

February 09, 2012

STLCC students clean up tornado-damaged property in Joplin.  
STLCC students joined peers from other Missouri community colleges in November to help clean-up efforts in Joplin, Mo.

As the one-year anniversary of the tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., approaches in May, St. Louis Community College students are working hard to continue changing the city’s landscape.

The Student Government Associations (SGA) at STLCC’s four campuses are raising money to purchase trees through the Arbor Day Foundation. The SGAs’ Trees for Joplin Campaign, a friendly, intercampus competition, will  wrap up at the end of March. SGA representatives are selling popcorn and candy, and collecting donations at many other events on their campuses, from which proceeds will be used to purchase the trees.

The Arbor Day Foundation initiated its Joplin Tree Recovery program through its own Trees for America program. The foundation delivered more than 120,000 trees to Gulf Coast families who were victims of Hurricane Katrina, and has replanted more than 20 million trees in national forests devastated by disease and fire. The foundation will match the funds raised by the STLCC students dollar for dollar.

“We have issued a districtwide challenge to our sister campuses to see who can raise the most money,” said Derrick Varner, president of Forest Park’s SGA. “All of the funds will be contributed and donated under STLCC.”

In lieu of attending the annual Missouri Community College Association-SGA Conference in Branson, Mo., last November, SGA representatives and their peers statewide all decided their time would be much better spent in Joplin. The group, which included more than 40 STLCC students and faculty, made the bus trip on Nov. 5.

“It was an eye opener. Even though we were hit by a tornado (in April 2011) and there was lots of damage in North County, no lives were lost,” said Donna Brandy, STLCC-Florissant Valley’s SGA president. “Once we started working, it was truly rewarding to see new houses go up and to see everyone pitching in to do their part. It made the trip all the more worthwhile.”    

The Phi Theta Kappa chapter at STLCC-Wildwood organized a collection drive immediately after the tornado hit in April, collecting thee carloads of clothes, household items, shoes, toiletries and toys that were delivered within a few weeks. Wildwood students Patrick Eberle and Abby Wood said the experience of participating in the group effort has left an indelible mark on their own lives.

Students help with clean-up efforts in Joplin, Mo.  
STLCC campus Student Government Association groups
are collecting donations through March to purchase
trees for Joplin, Mo., through the Arbor Day Foundation.

“A community isn’t just the people that live near you and around you. It’s also the people who support and care about you,” Eberle said. ”Joplin is definitely part of our community. After six months, people thought, ‘We donated once already, so we’re good.’ They still need help.”

Said Woods: “Talking to all the people who were helping, working side by side with them and having them tell you how much it meant to them made me realize that it’s still going on for them. It’s part of their daily lives.”

Tori Lamborn, secretary of the Student Governance Council at Meramec, said the experience ranked as one of the highlights of her sophomore year.

“Helping clean up the devastation in Joplin was very eye-opening for me because it truly put things in perspective,” she said. “Helping with the clean-up made me think about other things I could do to be a part of something bigger. Knowing that my efforts would eventually make a difference in a person's life that I had never met really means a great deal to me.”

Before students left Joplin that day, they collected more than $100 amongst themselves and donated it to the AmeriCorps representatives who also were on site.

The STLCC campus winner of this contest will be announced in mid-March; however, there are no losers in this competition.

“When you’re volunteering or helping out, by making a difference in someone else’s life, you’re making a difference in yours,” Eberle said.

If you would like information about how to donate to the SGA Trees for Joplin Campaign, contact Donna Brandy at dbrandy@my.stlcc.edu.