‘United for Joplin’ fundraiser breaks $1 million
Friday, May 27, 2011www.columbiatribune.com
With more than $1 million in donations on hand, the Heart of Missouri United Way is ready to help Joplin residents rebuild their lives and community.
A “United for Joplin” fundraising effort that culminated last night at the new Museao building on Buttonwood Drive raised $1,036,000. The Columbia United Way chapter will dole out the money as needed, working with its affiliate in Joplin, said Executive Director Tim Rich.
Joplin Mayor Mike Woolston extended a “thanks” through a phone call this morning with the Tribune. “The kind of support people have offered, whether it’s been financially, in prayer or through volunteerism, the support we’ve received has been overwhelming, and Columbia is part of that,” he said. “We’re very appreciative of the efforts up there.”
Joplin has literally been overwhelmed with tangible donations, to the point officials are asking on websites and through social media that people stop bringing unsolicited items because there’s no place to store them. Regardless, media across the country are reporting groups from Utah, Colorado, Chicago, Nebraska and Tennessee planned to haul semitrailer loads of goods to the tornado-ravaged town this weekend.
One reason cash donations are preferred is they allow agencies to fund what’s actually needed rather than having to rely on volunteers to sort goods and figure out which victims need which donated items.
Rich plans to head to Joplin next week to talk to officials about how to best use the “United for Joplin” funds. “We want to have the biggest impact and provide the greatest return on investment for our donors,” he said.
That might include helping residents pay for temporary housing, cover utility costs for a while or fund whatever else they need to start over, Rich said. “One of the nice things about United Way is we have the ability to work with our partners and those who aren’t our partners so we custom-tailor the needs of people and each family individually.”
Fundraising efforts here started almost immediately after the tornado struck Joplin Sunday when Brent Beshore, a Joplin native turned Columbia entrepreneur, sent Rich a message asking to set up a fund for relief efforts. Although most of the contributions have come from individuals, other entities pitched in.
The University of Missouri created a T-shirt promoting “One State. One Spirit. One Mizzou.” to raise money for the campaign. As of this morning, 9,100 T-shirts had been sold, mostly from online orders, raising some $100,000 in profits for Joplin. The shirts were temporarily sold out this morning.
“I don’t think anyone expected the shirts to be flying off the shelves and Web as quickly as they did,” said Ana Compain-Romero, director of University Affairs. “I think it’s extraordinary that not only the community here but, heaven knows, nationwide people are really turning out for this.”
Also contributing to the total amount was a $200,000 check from Sam’s Club, delivered personally to Columbia yesterday from a representative in the Bentonville, Ark., office. That money is specifically earmarked to help small businesses rebuild, Rich said. He plans to form a Columbia task force made of business and university leaders who can help Joplin form a long-term recovery plan.
Joplin is still literally picking up the pieces, so economic recovery isn’t an immediate need, Woolston said, “but down the road, it’s going to be critical.”
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