We first heard the story of public school early childhood special education teacher, Debby Guardino, from Chesapeake, VA, through social media. Like many, Debby felt an instant connection with the teachers from Joplin, MO after the tornado hit in late May, but Debby took it a step further and began raising funds through DonorChoose.org and through her online networks. We reached out to Debby and offered to sponsor her flight to Joplin, MO to meet the teachers she’d been working with, deliver the donated supplies, see the damage and the relief efforts.
We were also lucky enough to get Debby’s firsthand account:
Shortly after 5:30 p.m. tornado sirens rang through the small town of Joplin, Missouri, and by 5:41 p.m. a tornado touched down on the southwest side of the small town.
The crumpled remains of St. John’s Medical Center and an overturned medical evacuation helicopter were the first images I remember seeing as I sat in my living room the evening of May 22. As news reports started coming out of Joplin, I knew the situation was bad, and I immediately felt compelled to act. Within a week I had contacted Joplin Schools and the non-profit online educational charity DonorsChoose.org to see if I could help the 260 Joplin teachers begin rebuilding the classrooms destroyed by the tornado. By early July, with the help of my good friends at Hipmunk, I was in the air headed to Joplin, MO.
Driving through housing areas of Joplin and seeing nothing but cement foundations or cellars and being told this was an area where hundreds of homes used to be was unbelievable. Looking at the ground and seeing a life time of possessions in rubble, or twisted in sheets of metal is disturbing.
I could see children’s stuffed animals, toys, bicycles pelted into the ground like it was part of the terrain.
Next Week: Debby’s DonorsChoose Efforts At Work
If you are interested in helping a Joplin teachers’ project please follow the link to DonorsChoose.org/Joplin