Everywhere you look is rubble. Devastation. Destruction. Yet, as you look closer, you see people attempting to clear a patch of land, an American flag snapping in the breeze, and a sign of thanks. At that point, you realize that Joplin, Missouri is going to survive because of the residents who live here and the assistance from people around the country.
Chevrolet Area Sales Manager Gabriel Ismaio doesn’t live in Joplin, but it is part of his territory. When he first arrived the day after the tornado hit (on May 22), it was difficult to grasp what he was looking at. “When you see it on the news, you only see it for a few seconds, then it goes away. But when you’re here in real life, it hits you pretty hard.” So Gabe and Chevrolet Zone Manager Ken Sadowski contacted other dealers in their region and, as Gabe says, “They all stepped up to the plate and they all helped.” The local dealers came through with a total of $80,000 for the relief effort.
The Crossroads Chevrolet-Cadillac building in Joplin was spared by the killer twister, but the wicked winds touched the lives of nearly everyone working there. Owner Dan Auffenberg said that on the day after the tornado, nine or ten employees showed up for work. He sent them home, saying, “You don’t need to be here. You need to be home helping your families.” At this point, five employees of Crossroads had lost their homes to the storm, and the service manager’s wife had lost her mother. Auffenberg says, “We’re doing everything we can to help the employees of Crossroads Chevrolet come back from this tragic storm.” He has committed $50,000 to help his employees deal with the storm’s aftermath. He says the money is to make sure his employees “make it through.”
Crossroads Chevrolet-Cadillac has also served as a collection point for community donations of clothing, food, water and other supplies for those hard-hit by the tornado and its’ aftermath. As you watch the video (below), note the Chevy Silverado pickup pulling a trailer loaded with boxes. All of those boxes are community donations heading to a local church for distribution. The two other pickups in the video were loaded with the overflow that wouldn’t fit on the trailers. All of these goods were just one of the deliveries from the dealership.
The GM Foundation provided a $100,000 donation to the Red Cross, and two full-sized Chevrolet vans were presented to the local YMCA. Built at the Wentzville, MO plant, these vans will be used by the “Children of the Storm” program, which provides a safe place for youngsters to go while their parents rebuild the families’ shattered lives.
Contributions to the Joplin community from the GM family of dealers, employees and the corporation now total more than $250,000. You can get more details on the extent of the donations here.
Auffenberg says that while there’s no quick fix for Joplin, “we’re here to help moving forward. It’s going to take a long time to rebuilt this community, and we’re here for our employees and for the city of Joplin.”
In the aftermath of the tornado, one image seemed to capture the spirit of Joplin perfectly. The American flag on the pole in front of Crossroads Chevrolet/Cadillac is tattered after winds tore at it in excess of 150 miles an hour. It’s at half-staff in memory of the lives lost in this tragedy. But it flies proudly and defiantly, making a statement: When we all pull together, we can make it through the toughest of times and emerge stronger and more united than ever.
To see more from Joplin, check out the story of one employee from the Crossoroads dealership who benefitted from the generosity of so many people.
The Joplin tornado wasn’t the first tragic natural disaster to hit this year, and it wasn’t the first place GM has stepped in to help the affected community. Click here to get some background on how the company helped when Alabama was slammed by a series of tornadoes.