On May 22, 2011, Joplin, Missouri was hit by an EF5 force tornado – the most severe category of tornadoes, characterized by winds in excess of 200 miles per hour. The tornado reached over a mile across and when it was over, more than 150 people were dead and there was over $2 billion in damage.
Over a year later, the community is still rebuilding. The Kansas City Chiefs, about 150 miles north of Joplin, have embraced the recovery efforts and last Friday, over 150 members of the Chiefs’ organization, including players, coaches, executives and staff, made their third trip to Joplin to help.
“It feels good, just to know that I can come out here and help people,” said first round draft pick Dontari Poe. “Once I heard about Joplin and how much it was hit by the tornado last year, how it affected these people, it was really no question that I was going to come down here and help.”
Working with the Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, part of the Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge, the Chiefs’ volunteers built five houses on Friday. The team also adopted four elementary schools in the Joplin area, comprising nearly 1300 students, and surprised them with gifts during Christmas.
Fellow rookie Tysyn Hartman, who attended Kansas State, was also on hand and was impressed with the rookies pulling together for the effort. “We definitely got a great turnout. Most of the rookies showed up and a few of the vets as well,” Hartman said. “It means a lot, getting our guys out on our day off. This is one of the first days off that we’ve had since I’ve been here in the middle of May. That we have that many guys that want to sacrifice and take that time away to give back to the community really means a lot.”
Also on hand was veteran quarterback Brady Quinn. “Anytime you see people in this situation and see what they suffer through and go through, it really just digs at you and puts things in perspective,” Quinn said. “My dad was a home builder, so I grew up kind of in construction homes. Hopefully I’m doing a good job for them. We’ll see.”
Chiefs team president Mark Donovan talked about meeting the owners of one of the houses that the Chiefs built on Friday. “It’s really cool,” Donovan said. “We met Linda. This is Linda’s house. Linda qualified for it. She worked her butt off to make sure she’ll have her first home.”
“We actually got to see her floor plan. She brought it out of her car and we had all the players sign it. She is going to frame that and hang it up in her house, so it will be here forever. It’s our little way of giving back. For us, selfishly, we feel like we contributed. It’s pretty cool to come here and see a concrete slab at the beginning of the day and then see that, and we’re not even done yet.”
The team has truly embraced the community, from the home building trip this weekend, to the Christmas gifts, to hosting the Joplin High School football team at Arrowhead Stadium last season for a game, with all net proceeds from ticketing and parking benefitting the Joplin school’s tornado relief fund. Many NFL players have a strong focus on doing charity work and giving back to the community, and there is no more worthy recipients than the hard hit citizens of Joplin.