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July 10, 2011

10,000 and Counting

By Elaine Viets

This was the Joplin High School library until 5:41 p.m. on May 22.

Here’s what it looked like Wednesday, 45 days after the worst tornado in 60 years ripped through Joplin. The twister tore a path six miles long and a mile wide through this southwest Missouri town of 50,000 people.

This is a small glimpse at what Joplin lost: 8,000 thousand homes.18,000 cars. 450 businesses. 159 lives.

My friend Deb Marshall took that photo of the ruined high school. She’s president of the Missouri Writers’ Guild. The MWG, along with the St. Louis Writers’ Guild, has collected 10,000 books for the city’s school libraries. Deb organized the book collection from St. Louis, nearly 300 miles away on the other side of the state.

"Providing books to the schools’ libraries is a step toward rebuilding the entire Joplin community," she said. Deb says the schools are struggling to open on their "originally scheduled date of August 17. The books are a small way we can help them return to normal life after this catastrophe.

"You wouldn't believe the devastation in Joplin," she said. "The media is correct; pictures can't begin to tell the story. Although I am a journalist with a ‘need to know,’ I felt like a trespasser on hallowed ground."

Deb wasn’t trespassing. She was delivering books at MWG’s expense. She got the word out at the cost of her time. Deb is a writer, and should be working on her own book.

Wounded Joplin is serious about rebuilding, and Americans are pitching in.

"I am receiving books from all over the country," Deb said "I got an e-mail from a Catholic middle school librarian in Muskegon, Michigan, who's from Missouri and consolidating two libraries due to school closings. Would we like books and library furniture?"

MWG is delivering that.

"Someone in Chicago sent 700 books for the high school." Another company donated $5,000 worth of ebooks.

"To say I'm grateful for the response is an understatement," Deb said.

None of the MWG’s Joplin members were hurt. One woman, Ann, has a "home in splinters." But she’d not wasting time feeling sorry for herself. She’s on the board of George A. Spiva Center for the Arts, the "beautiful art center and gallery in downtown Joplin. Ann has visions of readings and cocktail party book launches at the gallery. She was excited to show me their new gallery and introduced me to everyone there, including artist-in-residence Sam Lewis, who is also an elementary art teacher." Deb said Sam lost "an extensive library that included some valuable art books."

Joplin is mourning its losses – but making plans to rebuild. Many TLC regulars have already helped. I’m asking you for more.

"The Joplin School District libraries still need books," Deb said, "especially since books in an additional elementary school library were unable to be saved due to asbestos contamination. Books are needed for libraries in two elementary schools, a middle school and the high school. The district's Teacher Resource Center was destroyed. Head Librarian Debbie Heim said DVDs are also needed.

"Books and teacher resource materials may be sent directly to Joplin. Ship them to:

"Debbie Heim/Library

"MWG Joplin Book Drive, Memorial Education Center, 310 West 8th St., Joplin, MO. 64801."

Don’t want to pack and ship books? Not sure what to send?

"Cash donations to the Missouri Writers’ Guild Joplin Book Drive or gift cards for books to Deb Marshall, President, Missouri Writers’ Guild, 1203 Spartina Drive, Florissant, MO 63031. MWG is a 501(c)3 organization. All contributions go directly to the Joplin School District Libraries for books and learning resources."

Even $5 can buy a little hope.



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Elaine, thank you for this information. I don't know how I would have survived without my school libraries. They were not only a source of information, they were quiet spaces, peaceful.

Elaine, thank you for this. A donation will go out today!

Thanks, Elaine -- time to weed out all the books in my own house that the kids and I are not likely to read again. Along with the books, I'll send prayers.

The before and after pictures are powerful. Thanks for the information, Elaine. And to Deb Marshall and MWG, thank you for your hard work in re-establishing the library. I'll send out a donation today.

Thanks! Sending in a donation today and I'll see what books can be donated.

Thank you. TLC readers know that books bring comfort as well as knowledge.

Now I know why I never gave away any of the teacher resources I brought home with me when I left the classroom a few years ago. Also, time to go through all my books . . .

Thanks so much for this info!

Thanks, Elaine. Books (and more donations) on the way.

Great article, Elaine. Thanks so much for helping.
Becky Povich (President of Saturday Writers in St. Peters, Missouri, a chapter of MWG)

Yay, Judy. Thank you, TLCers. I hate having good books languish on shelves unread. This way, they'll be appreciated.

Elaine thank you for the opportunity for allowing us to help.
I will be enlisting the help of my daughters who are teachers and we will be sending books and hopefully teacher materials.
Thanks again.

When I retired, I gave most of my classroom library to a friend for her grandchildren's school's library. When that school closed, they gave their library materials to a school that had lost theirs to another tornado. Tornados can take away, but good people can give back. I'm glad we are here to help each other.
This is the blog I wrote on Wopila: http://www.storytellermary.com/Garrett/Story_Musings/Entries/2010/12/18_Wopila%2C_a_Give-Away.html

Mary and Marie, I'm glad to see those materials getting good homes. Please let other librarians and teachers know about Joplin.

Elaine, this must be posted on Goodreads, too, please. I'd do it, but my page is so not visited, so it would just sit there, unread.
I've been thinking about what to do when I get a dozen boxes of books out of storage, since I already know I will only want a few of them back on my shelves . . . now I know. Thanks so much for this opportunity.

Harley, from yesterday, "smells nice" as desirable attribute in a man? Yes!

Just wrote my check it will be in the mail to Deb tomorrow. What a great thing to do. If they can use any of my Algebra, Algebra 2 and Geometry materials from '96 I'll ship them as well. Like Mary I gave most of my materials away after I retired but kept these books and supplementary materials "just in case". I hate the thought of just putting them in a recycle bin but realize they are 15 years old even if they are unused.

Is there any central donation point for books in the St. Louis Area?

I'll ask Deb Marshall if they can use them, Diana. E-mail me off list at [email protected]
Mary, I'll ask Deb if you can drop them off at her house in Florissant. She's making another trip this week.

Mary and Diana,
Here's Deb's answers to your questions:
Yes and Yes.
Mary, Deb and the MWG will be making a big run to Joplin at the end of this week. Her address is 1203 Spartina Drive, Florissant, MO 63031.
Diana, send those books. Anything the schools can't used will be sent to the military or sold to benefit the library. Either way, they'll be put to good use.

Thank you, Elaine, for putting out the call to help rebuild Joplin school libraries. TLC readers obviously understand the tremendous healing gift that lies within a book, not only between its covers, but from the spirit in which it is given.

Thanks to all for being the generous book lovers you are and for sharing with our Joplin, Missouri community in need.


What started as a simple little campaign to gather books for a Midwest town's school libraries seems to have turned into a coast-to-coast Book Drive for Joplin! This morning's mail and my email inbox brought contributions from Beverly Hills, CA 90210 to Elliott City, Maryland! Gift cards for Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Borders are being forwarded immediately to Head Librarian Debbie Heim so she can order books from book lists of new books that were never ordered for the upcoming school year. Thank you for all cash contributions also, which are being sent also, including the $1,000 contribution from an anonymous donor.
THANK YOU to everyone! I will be listing names of all who have contributed on the Missouri Writers' Guild blog (mwgconference.blogspot.com) in the near future. Elaine Viets, you and The Lipstick Chronicles have scored a grand slam and Joplin, Missouri is extremely grateful.


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