Five Years Later, The Salvation Army Continues to Serve Joplin After the Costliest Tornado in American History

May 20, 2016 | by Debbie Walyus

Tornado that killed 158 people led to one of the most significant responses


ALEXANDRIA, Va. (May 20, 2016)The Salvation Army continues to be a source of hope, stability and service to the residents of southwestern Missouri five years after the costliest tornado in U.S. history.

The catastrophic EF5 multiple-vortex tornado that struck Joplin on May 22, 2011, killed 158 people, destroyed more than 7,500 homes and 500 businesses, and caused more than $2.8 billion in damage.  The tornado, which was part of a larger late-May outbreak, was the deadliest tornado to strike since the Glazier-Higgins-Woodward tornadoes in 1947.

A long-standing presence in the local community, The Salvation Army was uniquely positioned to serve survivors immediately.  “The Salvation Army has been an active part of the Joplin community for over 125 years,” said Lt. Col. Lonneal Richardson, The Salvation Army Midland Divisional Commander. “The Salvation Army provided immediate emergency relief after the devastating tornado, and since then has focused on long-term recovery efforts. Even today, the region remains in a rebuilding mode.”

The Salvation Army raised $6.8 million in donations on behalf of survivors of the deadly storm. In the immediate aftermath of the destruction, The Salvation Army spent $2.5 million on emergency disaster relief, including food, hydration, and basic necessities like clothing and diapers. The initial response included:

  • Nine Mobile Feeding Units (Canteens) from Springfield, Kirksville, and Sedalia, Missouri; Pittsburg and Lawrence, Kansas; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Chicago, Illinois
  • More than 23,700 hot meals, 7,288 snacks and 22,401 drinks
  • Emotional and spiritual care for approximately 600 people
  • Direct financial aid in the form of gift cards and housing/utility assistance
  • Ten Salvation Army officers, 25 employees and 146 volunteers logging more than 4,550 hours of support

Ultimately, The Salvation Army will spend more money than was raised through donations, thanks to an additional grant from The Salvation Army’s Central Territorial Headquarters, located in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. The funds yet to be disbursed have been committed to long-term recovery initiatives that directly benefit survivors, and distribution is now almost complete. These funds are to be allocated to several planned projects, including:

  • Continued funding of Habitat for Humanity projects
  • Continued support for the efforts of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks/Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri
  • Additional social services case work to meet basic needs of tornado survivors
  • Increased funding for The Salvation Army’s Pathway of Hope program, which uses intensive casework to help families break the intergenerational cycle of poverty
  • The construction of a facility to house The Salvation Army’s current Emergency Disaster Services equipment and supplies, and to expand capacity for Joplin and the four-state region

Furthermore, The Salvation Army has worked with the city of Joplin and has partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Joplin and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks in grants to meet the needs of families affected by the tornado.

Grants with Habitat for Humanity helped to complete the following projects:

  • Construction of seven homes, completed in February 2016
  • Construction of 27 tornado shelters, completed in 2015
  • Repair and remodeling of homes as part of A Brush of Kindness program, completed in December 2015
  • Homeowner assistance to support maintenance and ownership from the HELP program

Grants to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks/Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri resulted in the following projects:

  • Project Hope counseling at Joplin R-VIII school district
  • Housing construction and rehab for Rebuild Joplin
  • Home repairs by Catholic Charities of Southwest Missouri
  • Reconstruction of the Leffen Center for Autism
  • Circles counseling program by the United Way of Southwest Missouri
  • Food for families in need by Crosslines
  • Food and program support for children in the Joplin Family YMCA
  • Housing repairs by Hearts and Hammers
  • Long-range community planning by Side by Side
  • Construction of a new medical school by the Joplin Regional Medical School Alliance

“Working with the city of Joplin and community partnerships in the Ozarks, progress has been made over the past five years. While the city of Joplin will never look the same, The Salvation Army will continue to help survivors heal and flourish,” said Lt. Col. Richardson.

About The Salvation Army

The Salvation Army, established in London in 1865, has been supporting those in need in His name without discrimination for more than 135 years in the United States. Approximately 30 million Americans receive assistance from The Salvation Army each year through a range of social services: food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the homeless, and opportunities for underprivileged children. 82 cents of every dollar donated to The Salvation Army is used to support those services in 5,000 communities nationwide. The Salvation Army tracks the level of need across the country with the Human Needs Index ( For more information, go to or follow on Twitter @SalvationArmyUS.


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