Founded in a Time of Crisis, Mission Joplin Continues to Give Hope
In May 2011, an unforgettable EF5 tornado struck the city of Joplin. With thousands of buildings destroyed and infrastructure impacted, families lost access to housing and crucial resources for weeks. The destruction and devastation caused by the storm was so historic that it garnered national attention. Residents, organizations, and churches stepped up to lend their neighbors a much needed hand, and from the aftermath of the storm, Mission Joplin was founded.
Led by a family of the church, Mission Joplin began as a group of volunteers with the tremendous task to organize and distribute donations to residents impacted by the storm. Lori Hunter, executive director at Mission Joplin, has been involved since the beginning. “The tornado was devastation,” she remembers, “There’s still a lot of bare land and homes not rebuilt. It’s changed the town.” Lori began as a volunteer, as did everyone in the days after the tornado, but eventually the food pantry’s demand grew consistent enough that Lori was hired on as director.
Nearly 12 years after the tornado, Mission Joplin is giving hope to people like Harold, a regular at the pantry who lost his wife a few years ago. When Harold first began coming to Mission Joplin, he wouldn’t take much food. Without his wife’s guidance, Harold didn’t know how to cook and would only take food he could eat raw or from a can. Volunteers immediately began to teach Harold how to prepare meals, personally helping him choose items to fit his new cooking skills. Thanks to volunteers’ personal investment, Harold now cooks for himself.
Stories like Harold’s are why Ozarks Food Harvest is proud to partner with food pantries and meal programs, who are the front lines of hunger-relief in the Ozarks. Their personal connections with communities assure neighbors that someone is in their corner when they’re hungry.
Bill Buchanan, a seven-year volunteer at Mission Joplin, shares, “When you get to visit with people, you realize what they’ve gone through to bring them here. You see their expressions and countenance after they receive everything. It can be a life changing moment for them because we give new hope.”
Disasters like the Joplin tornado are extreme reminders of the importance of hunger relief, but thousands of people across southwest Missouri still face hunger. Like Ozarks Food Harvest, our network of community and faith-based charities are experiencing a new kind of perfect storm: increased costs, supply chain disruptions, and decreased food donations.
On top of these challenges, pantries like Mission Joplin are also trying to keep up with record-high demand. Increased costs of food and transportation mean that more families are seeking grocery assistance, and Mission Joplin is now serving more people than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Lori notes that they are even seeing some families coming to the food pantry for the first time.
Bill explains that a partnership with the Food Bank has helped Mission Joplin stretch their dollars to accommodate for every person looking for help, “We’re able to purchase more food because of our partnership with Ozarks Food Harvest, and we’ve been the beneficiary of several grants. You make what we do possible. It’s a team effort.”
Thanks to our supporters, Ozarks Food Harvest can continue our work to end hunger in the Ozarks. By investing in our communities, you support meal programs and food pantries like Mission Joplin, who help us Transform Hunger into Hope in our communities every day.