Klink talked with many locals and other volunteers. One memorable man had hitchhiked across the country to Joplin to volunteer in the recovery. “He’s there with his clothes and staying in churches that’ll put him up and feed him. He’s working there without pay,” Klink says. Homeowners’ stories resounded with Klink, as well. One woman spoke of hiding in her bathtub while the tornado blew through. “She explained in great detail the sounds she heard of her roof being ripped off and the creaking of nails being pulled out. She felt like she was going to die,” he recalls. After the storm passed and she emerged from her bathtub, she realized her bathroom was the only room in the house that hadn’t been completely demolished. “That was a lot of people’s story,” Klink says. “The room they sought shelter in was the only room that wasn’t destroyed.”
Siding manufacturer and distributor Kaycan, Burlington, Vt., also donated exterior building products and tools in the Joplin area. Janis Turner, Kaycan’s U.S. marketing manager, explains that even though Kaycan does not manufacture tools, the tools are necessary for rebuilding. “Our customers need to take care of their families but also want to give back to the community,” she says. “Tools help them get their jobs back and their families fed.” The company also donated clothing, food and other critical items.
In addition, manufacturers are taking part in improving the built environment to be more durable and energy efficient. Kim Hibbs, owner of Chesterfield, Mo.-based Hibbs Homes, has been working with the Donald family since May to rebuild their St. Louis house. Although construction is still in the early stages, the finished structure will be a more efficient and higher-quality residence than before, thanks to several suppliers, including Pevely, Mo.-based American Steel Fabrication Inc., which is donating the steel for the house. Other companies are offering upgraded products for the cost of a lower-quality one. “Anybody who was around on Good Friday remembers the severity of the storms coming through and the damage and devastation. There are a lot of great people in the St. Louis area who are stepping up to help us get this house rebuilt,” Hibbs says. “I’m thrilled that we’re replacing the almost 60-year-old house with one that’s much more efficient. That’s what it’s all about—giving them a much better home.”
Although the devastation spans many states and thousands of people, one value resounds among everyone affected: community. Kaycan’s motto is “Building Lasting Impressions.” “For the first time in several years, we’ve had the opportunity to not only build a lasting impression in vinyl siding and in communities, but we were able to have Kaycan build a lasting impression for our customers in a philanthropic role,” Turner says. “That’s really important in companies today. You need to support someone who has hit hard times. You have to start helping people.”
Nikolich agrees. “Design professionals and our local architecture community want to help and be part of rebuilding,” he says. “This is what we should be doing. I’m sad the tornadoes happened but I’m happy to be part of this process. It’s exciting to see people working together and really helping each other.”
Klink and his colleagues were impressed at the positive attitudes in Joplin. “What really struck me is even two months after the devastation when it seems like they would start to fall into despair, I don’t remember seeing any negative attitudes,” he recalls. “They seemed glad to be alive. The community seems to be pulling together. They realize if they’re going to get back to where they need to be, it’s up to them. They welcomed all the volunteer laborers but the locals aren’t sitting back waiting for volunteers. Everybody is pitching in.”
Stephen A. Tybor III, vice president and business unit manager at Heartland Siding by ProVia, Booneville, Miss., is co-founder and president of Eight Days of Hope and Adopt A Family, charitable organizations that ProVia has worked with to provide financial and material assistance. “As an employee of ProVia, this gets me excited,” Tybor says. “It’s great when you see companies giving back to communities. It’s not always about the bottom line. We live in these communities and if we don’t live there, we have cousins that live in those communities. At the end of the day, it’s about doing the right thing.”