McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State House

September 29, 2013

‘Love thy neighbor’: Volunteers spruce up Joplin in day of service

JOPLIN, Mo. — Up to 2,000 people worked to brighten up several Joplin neighborhoods on Sunday morning as part of the annual Great Day of Service, organized by local churches in cooperation with the city.

Volunteers at a house in the 200 block of North Joplin Avenue were engaged in a multitude of tasks in an attempt to tidy up the yard, the largest on the block. Trimming and pickup of limbs and filling in holes in the ground were among the top chores, said site supervisor Kevin Harrold, of Diamond.

“This is just the chance to do something positive,” he said. “There’s a million different needs that people may have.”

Harrold, who brought his wife and two children with him for the work day, said service is something that everybody — young or old, big or small — can do.

“I feel like not everybody can preach or teach or sing or lead a worship service, but I feel like everybody can sweat,” he said. “I’m pretty passionate about that — whatever we can do to help.”

Christie Lanning, the homeowner, said her large yard is “a lot to keep up.” Age and health problems prevent her from regular yard maintenance, but she was out Sunday morning alongside the volunteers working at her house.

“This is the true meaning of ‘love thy neighbor,’” she said. “It’s such a wonderful thing that they do, and they don’t ask for anything in return.”

Joking that she was serving as the “queen bee,” surveying the busy workers around her, Lanning said she appreciated the fellowship that the Great Day of Service provides just as much as the volunteer work.

“I don’t get a lot of visitors, so it’s kind of nice,” she said.

Three blocks up the street, in the 500 block of North Joplin Avenue, Melissa Divine and her two daughters were hard at work on a brick sidewalk. Armed with a shovel, Divine, of Neosho, was working to clear the sidewalk of weeds and dirt.

“It’s kind of tedious, but it makes all the difference,” she said. “Something that was once beautiful is now overgrown, and when it’s all done, it will look so much better.”

Divine said she enjoys volunteering, regardless of whether others take notice.

“You don’t know who you’re impacting,” she said. “If people are looking out the window at what we’re doing, it might motivate them to pay it forward.”

A house in the 100 block of North Joplin Avenue was a flurry of activity, as dozens of volunteers mowed the yard, trimmed trees and bushes, and cleared the sidewalk and gutters of debris.

A broom in hand, William Rhodes, of Wentworth, was sweeping grass clippings out of the gutter in front of the house. He and his wife had been invited to participate in the work day by their son and daughter-in-law, who live in Joplin.

“We think helping others is good, and that’s how we tried to raise our kids,” he said. “We’re trying to be an example for our kids and our grandkids.”

At the same house, Nikki Hart, of Carl Junction, and her daughter, Taylor, were tackling some greenery that was threatening to take over the north side of the home.

“We’re trying to get to the door,” Hart said, pointing to a white door that was completely obscured by the overgrown brush.

Taylor, 12, said her mother has instilled the concept of service in her by bringing her to the work day for several years now.

“It kind of teaches us when we get older to keep doing this and never stop,” she said.

Work sites

VOLUNTEERS SPREAD OUT in the Neighborhood Improvement areas that have previously been the focus of city efforts, including the area of Junge Field and a neighborhood between Joplin and Byers avenues from First Street to E Street.

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