Last fall the last of 22 new houses funded by The Salvation Army in Joplin, Mo., was dedicated. The culmination of a six-year partnership between The Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity with more than a $2 million investment, the homes represent the growing hope and continued rebuilding of the community nearly a decade after it was ravaged by an EF5 tornado on May 22, 2011.
“The community is still rebuilding,” said Lt. Marty Norris, corps officer, who was appointed to Joplin with his wife, Lt. Jennifer, in July. “The partnership with Habitat provided a great connection with the community. Our hope is for people to know we are still here, still supporting them.”
One Salvation Army-funded Habitat home went to Mike Boykin and his family, who lost their house and most of their possessions in the tornado. Today Mike manages The Salvation Army Family Store in Joplin, but at the time the tornado devastated his hometown he knew little about the organization.
“The day after the tornado, a group of people came walking down the street,” recalled Mike of his first Salvationist encounter. “They happened to be from The Salvation Army. They asked if they could pray with us, and that helped a lot.”
Like many others, the Boykins struggled to find a new place to live. They purchased a leaky, rundown house out of sheer desperation. Mike did what he could to make repairs, but with a neck injury and surgeries, it was difficult. That’s when his wife decided to apply for a Habitat for Humanity home. When they were approved, the family was overjoyed.
“I just remember being elated,” said Mike. “God blessed us.”
Several months after moving into their new home, Mike saw an employment opportunity in the paper for manager of The Salvation Army Family Store. Remembering the care Salvationists had shown his family after the tornado, he stopped in and applied. He was hired the next day.
“It is evident that God put me where He wanted me to be,” he said. “It’s a ministry, not a retail job. I feel very blessed and grateful.”
Approaching the 10-year anniversary of the devastating tornado, the community continues to recover. The homes funded by The Salvation Army, along with countless other structures, are a testament to the resiliency of the people and the difference hope and investment can make.
“We’re thankful for the partnership with Habitat,” said Major Beckie Stearns, who served at the Joplin Corps with her husband, Major Doug, from 2015 until their retirement in July 2020. “Building the houses gave people hope for a life after a disaster.”