Special Reunion: Volunteers and those they helped reunite ten years later

JOPLIN, Mo. – For Douglas Keeney, the ten year anniversary served as a day for reunion.

“It’s great to see them again,” says Keeney.

For the first time in more than five years, he had the chance to catch up with people who changed his life in a huge way. See, he was one of thousands in Joplin who lost their home’s to the tornado.

“The door was gone, the half the house that I was standing on plus the second story was completely gone,” explains Keeney.

But, he was one of many who were given a new home — thanks to Convoy of Hope.

“That was a life saver cause I don’t know what I would have done,” says Keeney. “Probably would have ended up living on the street or with relatives or something like that.”

Convoy of Hope sent a disaster recovery team from Springfield the night of the tornado. Now Vice President of Disaster Services at Convoy of Hope, Nick Wiersma was in the first group to respond.

“The thing that was pretty precious about Joplin was just the heartland and the people,” says Wiersma. “People came out of nowhere, people sacrificed a lot to help out. And so that was pretty powerful to watch.”

On top of the many organizations that came to the aid of the city, thousands of citizen volunteers also came from across the country. Support that former Mayor and City Councilman Michael Seibert says was vital to the city’s recovery.

“A community the size of Joplin didn’t have the manpower within the community to be able to recover from the devastation,” says Seibert. “I can’t tell you how many people were in our city parks plucking insulation and all other debris out of the trees and off the ground. It was just amazing to see how it would go from that to then they were starting to build homes, and they would come and volunteer to build new homes for people. We’re just so grateful. My hope is that the people who came here and volunteered have a chance to come back and see what kind of a foundation they have built for this community.”

Wiersma says doing just that — coming back and seeing the progress in the city — makes him feel good about what they and others were able to accomplish.

“It’s pretty incredible to come back and still see… to see the aftermath, and to still see the effect of it in the demarcation of the lines of the tornado as it came through, but then to see how life came back,” says Wiersma. “And to be here and see people telling stories, and even for our team telling stories of the people that we met, and the stories and even some of the homes that we built for… it’s pretty cool to see that stuff take place.”

“That’s the hope,” says Seibert. “Is that people that came here or that have come back to visit at different points in time have that real sense of pride that we do.”