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STLCC Sculpture Students Leave No Stones Unturned in Helping Tornado Victims

February 23, 2012

STLCC students help clean up a Joplin home destroyed by the May 2011 tornado.  
Students from Joe Chesla's Sculpture Club and others from St. Louis Community College-Meramec remove debris left behind by the May 2011 tornado that ravaged Joplin, Mo.


















Passionate sculptors put their hearts and souls into creating something from basically nothing.

Compassionate sculptors from St. Louis Community College-Meramec’s Sculpture Club and other students spent two days last fall trying to create something literally from nothing in the aftermath of a devastating tornado that ripped apart Joplin, Mo., in May 2011.

Joe Chesla, professor in art at STLCC-Meramec, and a former student made arrangements through AmeriCorps for the campus contingent to spend a couple of days assisting with the clean-up efforts.

“I made a preliminary trip to Joplin to meet with clean-up organizers to see how we might get involved,” Chesla said. “I put together a small presentation to share some of my experiences in Joplin with students and my Sculpture Club. They were instantly engaged and wanted to get down there as soon as they could to do whatever they could.”

Chesla and the students collected about $250 in cash and overloaded the back of a van with donated goods prior to their departure. The first day, Chesla’s group worked with 20 architecture students from the University of Kansas at the site of a demolished home.

“Our task was to carry piece by piece everything on that lot to within 10 feet of the street,” he said. “The only tools we had were axes, rakes, shovels and wheelbarrows. It was incredible – we actually hand-carried an entire two-story house to the curb.”

STLCC students help clean up in Joplin, Mo.  
STLCC students clear away remnants of a house destroyed by the
May 2011 tornado in Joplin, Mo.

On the second day, the group raked and cleared an enormous lot to remove all the large stones, cement and debris – again with only rakes, picks and wheelbarrows. They then spent the afternoon doing yard work, putting up fence posts and foundation work for a man who was completely rebuilding his home from the ground up.

“This was an incredible experience for all of us,” Chesla said. “One of the most rewarding and meaningful aspects for me was connecting with my students on an entirely different level. We work pretty closely in the sculpture studio and build trusting relationships, but the time we had together in Joplin was on an entirely different level of connectivity.”