JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) — The total losses to businesses and jobs from the massive tornado that struck Moore, Okla., are still being counted, but business people in Joplin didn't need an official tally to realize how much help would be needed.
With $20,000 quickly donated by 36 contributors, officials of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce traveled to the Oklahoma City suburb over the weekend to deliver the first installment toward establishment of a recovery fund for businesses affected by the top-of-the-scale EF5 tornado that killed 24 people on May 20.
Such a business recovery fund was established in Joplin after an EF5 tornado struck the southwest Missouri community in May 2011. Of the 530 employers that were hit or sustained substantial damage, 450 are back in operation two years later, Joplin chamber president Rob O'Brian told The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/10vFfha ).
O'Brian and Joplin chamber board chairman Larry Warren presented the donation Saturday to Brenda Roberts, president of the Moore Chamber of Commerce. It's intended to help the Moore chamber start its own recovery fund.
"That speaks louder than any wind or any noise that could have been happening on the day of the tornado," Roberts said after the presentation. "We will pay it forward."
O'Brian said the Moore tornado, like the one that hit Joplin, cut through a key retail area on its long path of destruction. Even many businesses that weren't hit could find themselves struggling because of everything from the loss of power to the death of an employee, he noted.
He also recalled the outpouring of help the Joplin chamber and Joplin businesses received from other chambers and businesses after May 22, 2011. About $1.7 million has been donated to various recovery funds for Joplin businesses since then, and out of that, 26 loans have been made so far, saving or creating 208 jobs.
"One lesson that we learned after the May 2011 tornado is that businesses will need help today and in the future," O'Brian said. "A business recovery fund can help make sure businesses have the resources they need to keep their doors open."
O'Brian said he and Warren also wanted to let members of the business community in Moore know they are not alone.
"Like Joplin, they kind of dusted themselves off and said, 'We're not going to let this get us down,'" O'Brian said after his visit. "We just felt it was important to be there with them and talk with them."
Donations to the Moore Business Recovery Fund are being accepted as long as the fund is needed. Every dollar of the contributions through the Joplin Chamber Foundation (a not-for-profit organization) will go directly to the Moore Chamber of Commerce for use in rebuilding efforts.