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Opens with sound from inside Bennett’s Paradise Donuts at 20th and Main in Joplin Missouri, 17 June 2011.
Female voice is heard saying “Are we ready to get started”? Co-owner Rhonda Bennett says Sure, sure, Keith”? Keith Bennett stands next to Rhonda and a few representatives from the Joplin Chamber of Commerce for a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the grand re-opening of the shop.
The last time Bennett’s Donuts was scheduled to open the work week was 25 days earlier, Monday May 23rd. But 26 days earlier, an E-F 5 tornado changed all that; For Bennett’s Donuts and hundreds of other businesses in Joplin Missouri. Rob O’Brian, President of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce: “There are about 450 businesses, and probably close to 500 total places of employment that were in the storms path, or along the edge of the path. Well over 4,500 people that were employed at those locations. I really don’t think it was until daylight Monday when people could begin to assess the direct path of the storm and all areas around that path that we really began to get a sense of how strong that storm was”.
The miles long diagonal path of total destruction left by the May 22 Joplin tornado included areas just 2 blocks due south of Bennett’s Donuts, and 2 blocks east. Keith Bennett tells KSMU: “We had a huge amount of debris strikes on the north side with all kinds of different things embedded into the building. We even had felt embedded in a tree by the building. Can’t imagine how fast winds have to go for felt to go inside of wood. We had 4 or 5 broken windows, and 1 blown out. We had a limb within the structure and with all the debris on top, we 6 inches of standing (rain) water on the roof, and that caused a lot of water damage”.
Keith and Rhonda Bennett know they’re lucky. Lucky to be alive and uninjured. Lucky their building is still standing with limited damage. Lucky to be open for business again. But the Bennett’s gave nourishment to their relative good fortune. They also know of others who didn’t. Keith Bennett: “You can’t afford not to have insurance. And you need full insurance with business interruption coverage. If you can’t afford insurance, then you can’t afford to be in business, because the risk is too great. The next thing is to get a great contractor or like we did; a restoration company. They got us back open in 3 weeks, which is amazing”.
On the day of, and 2 days following the grand re-opening of Bennett’s Donuts, Rhonda and Keith Bennett were giving away their product and taking donations for the Salvation Army. “Giving back to the community” says Rhonda, who feels a sense of relief today in seeing the faces of regular customers inside the shop: “It was nice to see the old faces that used to come here every morning and know they’re ok. We had some right at 6Am, and then started picking up and got really busy. All morning long we had a great turnout and lots of donations, and that’s a good thing”. Keith adds: This is the first day back open and so far we raised around $600.00 today”.
A half block away from Bennett’s, on the SE corner of 20th and Main, a group of volunteers from a local church and out of state are under 2 pop-up tents handing out food and liquids to victims and volunteers. Next to them is a damaged Wallgreen’s building and a trailer which is being used as a temporary pharmacy. Inside the trailer, I find pharmacy manager Wes Rumsfelt: “The night of the storm my employees got everybody in the cooler before it hit. Then we basically set up as the first triage in Joplin. In front of the store we had lawn chairs and everything we could get out of the store for people to use. Then we had nurses here every day. About 150 nurses and nursing students came around, we gave them back packs and what ever they needed to get out into the community, walk to houses and check on people. The trailer arrived the Friday after the storm. A lot of our customers don’t have vehicles anymore so they’re walking. We’re just trying to stay open for the community”.
For the Sense of Community Series on KSMU and ksmu.org; I’m Mike Smith.