Joplin group disburses $5.5 million raised from donations

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JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) _ A fund made up of donations that poured into Joplin after a devastating May 2011 tornado has disbursed nearly $5.5 million, with a majority of the funds going to organizations that helped people rebuild or repair their homes.

Donations came to the Joplin Tornado Fund administered by the Community Foundation of Southwest Missouri from across the world, from sources ranging from children’s lemonade stands to $500,000 from celebrity couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. It raised about $6.075 million and is taking applications for the $600,000 that is left, The Joplin Globe said (http://bit.ly/1At29mO ).

About 54 percent of the disbursements went to organizations that rebuilt or repaired homes for owners without insurance or enough insurance, or FEMA allocations to re-establish a house or repair the tornado damage, said Stephanie Howard, president of the foundation board.

Shortly after the tornado, which killed 161 people and damaged or destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, the Long-Term Recovery Committee, a consortium of organizations that worked together on recovery operations, received a grant of $1.5 million.

“Without this large investment, we would not have completed recovery as quickly as we did,” said Renee White, executive director of Community Clinic who was chairwoman of the committee.

The collaborating organizations rebuilt or repaired 1,312 houses through October 2013, White said, and helped 425 people resupply furnishings, appliances and transportation. The Joplin First Response Fund, which took direct contributions to the city of Joplin, also provided some of the money for that assistance. Separate foundation grants were made o housing agencies after the recovery committee was no longer needed.

Counseling and mental health groups and those that helped care for children while their parents dealt with the aftermath of the storm also received grants.

Joplin’s First Response Tornado Fund, which gave money to many of the same causes, also will soon be winding down, said Chairman Phil Stinnett.

The fund’s board has a meeting tentatively set for March 25 to determine what to do with about $25,000 to $35,000 left of the $995,000 in donations.