One Year Later: Red Cross Continues to Help Joplin Recover from 2011 Tornado

Monday, May 21, 2012 — On May 22, 2011, the lives and landscape of Joplin, Missouri, were changed forever.Image
“I will never forget the color of the sky that evening as my family and I stood outside our Springfield home and looked to the west. It was multi-colored reds and oranges, as if the sky were burning,” said Nigel Holderby, Red Cross chief communications officer for Southern Missouri.

The devastation left in the path of that storm would make it one of the deadliest EF-5 tornadoes in history.

The Red Cross ran a major disaster operation in response to the Joplin tornado, opening shelters for people who had lost everything, driving through communities to deliver food, meals, snacks, clean-up kits and comfort kits, and providing mental health counselors to support residents.

In response to the tornado in Joplin, the Red Cross:

  • Opened two shelters that provided 3,450 overnight stays.
  • Served approximately 86,000 meals and 373,000 snacks.
  • Distributed 1,456 comfort kits with hygiene supplies such as deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, wash cloth, shampoo, liquid soap, lotion, comb, razor and shaving cream.
  • Distributed 205,000 relief items such as tarps, ice chests, rakes and cleaning supplies through six centers and through deliveries.
  • Made 5,850 health service contacts and nearly 6,800 mental health contacts.

A year later, the Red Cross continues to help people in and around Joplin recover. The Red Cross is currently focused on helping families plan their recovery and access community resources, supporting those who are rebuilding homes, and preparing the community for any future disasters.

The people of Joplin have shown remarkable resilience. During the Red Cross “Everyday Heroes” event in Joplin this March, many honorees who had sacrificed in order to help others denied that they were heroes, but just ordinary people who knew that to help others was their purpose that day and during the days that followed. 

Red Cross President and CEO Gail McGovern will travel to Joplin to attend the Joplin High School graduation on May 21 as a special guest of Gov. Jay Nixon. McGovern and Gov. Nixon first spoke on May 23, 2011, the day after the devastating tornadoes hit the city. Gov. Nixon has been an outspoken advocate of the Red Cross, asking supporters to send donations to the Red Cross in support of Joplin relief efforts. 

The City of Joplin will remember those who lost their lives last year and celebrate the recovery of the city and community with a Day of Unity on May 22.

The local Red Cross will take part in the events of the day, alongside many of its partner agencies, by providing a hydration station for those participating in the Walk of Unity event. Red Cross volunteers will also set up an information booth on safety and disaster preparedness at the Joplin Sam’s Club.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies more than 40 percent of the nation’s blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit or join our blog at

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