Michele Ducre lives in Carl Junction, about 15 minutes up the road from Joplin. She was at home, when the tornado tore through her neighbors’ lives.
“Our family ran into the basement and turned on the news, and we were devastated to see what had happened in Joplin. I grew up in New Orleans. We moved here before Katrina happened, and we watched helplessly on CNN, and it was kind of something of that same feeling in a small way here.” It was a guilt she says, “Not so much the guilt that nothing happened to me – I don’t feel guilty about that – but this question: what do you do to help someone else.”
Considering she balances the needs of a family, work and graduate school, Ducre went above and beyond, although she maintains such accolodaes could be heaped on much of Joplin. Her family volunteered at the St Peter’s Outreach House. She put up her husband’s coworker and her family when they lost their home. And her work is its own healing: Ducre works for the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri (CFSM), part of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, an organization that works towards disbursing funds towards (and this is important, she stresses) long-term recovery.
“Everybody focuses on the short term, the immediate crisis. But most people don’t fund or think about how it’s going to take a lot of resources to rebuild a community.”
Donators earmark the gifts CFSM deals with, and a lot of the money raised has gone towards planting trees. That may seem like funny priorities – families can’t live in trees, right? – until you’ve seen the long lines of flattened lots laid bare by the tornado, and compare them to the tree-lined communities in North Joplin. When Ducre talks about rebuilding, this is the active component of the verb: not just homes, or subdivisions, but communities.