The world probably needs more folks like Paul Whitehill, or as he likes to call himself, the Gatorade man.
Around here he’s known as the owner of Images in Tile. His home and his business survived the tornado fine, but three of his ten employees had lost their homes, and the power was out anyways, so Paul let his workers off. Then he drove to some relief centers, loaded his truck with diapers, water, and paper towels, and tried to figure out what he could do to make the town a little better.
“It was Memorial Day weekend, and by the time I got into the field, it was 100 degrees, and people wanted something cool to drink.”
So he drove back to the relief centers, offloaded his truck, got some donated ice chests from the Red Cross and hundreds of bottles of Gatorade. Bottled water, he says, was in abundance, but it had been left out in the heat, and no one wanted it.
“I would see 30 or 40 volunteers, and I would ask, do you want something to drink, and they would say ‘nah,’ and then I would say ‘it’s ice cold’ and they would go ‘YEAH.’”
For one week he drove around the neighborhood giving out cold drinks. He became like the ice cream man. People would mob his truck, and ask him who he was, and would say “I am a small business owner in Joplin, Missouri.”
Most amazing is Paul’s utter lack of need for validation. “There was a family I came across, and they were sitting in a 75% destroyed home, and the only thing she wanted was diapers for her children. I made note of it, and the next morning when I went to the center, she wrote down for me the sizes that I needed, and when I came back, the family was gone. So I put the diapers in the garage. Over the next eight months I watched that house get rebuilt. I would make it a point a couple times a week to go home that way, to see that progress. I never came back to see them. But seeing that house get rebuilt warmed my heart.”