GCU Employee in Joplin Making His Presence Felt
By Doug Carroll
When representatives of GCU pull into Joplin, Mo., later this week with a delivery of clothes and supplies for victims of the May 22 tornado, they’ll be assisted by a one-man welcoming party.
That would be Bob Goltra, a 12-year resident of the city who has worked in the region for the past year as a university development representative for GCU. Although Goltra lives about six miles south of the area hit hardest by the tornado, he has been pitching in on the massive relief effort.
He says it’s difficult to overstate the devastating aftereffects of the storm.
“This has taken a toll on every part of Joplin’s population,” says Goltra, who helped staff a missing-persons hotline that fielded 5,000 calls in a three-day span. “People who have lived here all of their lives will drive through the city and not know where they’re at. Landmarks are gone.
“Generations to come will be affected by what has happened. Joplin’s landscape will never be the same. The process of returning to normal will take years.”
Last week, GCU announced a “Drive to Joplin” that is accepting donations at all University locations through the end of the business day on Wednesday. The Suns and Mercury have lent their support to the cause, and three GCU employees — including Aaron Johnson, a Joplin native — will drive the donations from Phoenix to Missouri, leaving early Thursday. They will visit four families hit hard by the disaster.
Goltra says the tornado was actually two twisters that converged on the city, sweeping “like a bulldozer” across a swath of land more than six miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. After an intense week of search and rescue operations, the focus has now turned to identifying the needs of survivors. President Obama visited Joplin over the weekend.
“The clothes and supplies couldn’t be coming at a better time,” Goltra says. “These are proud people, and it’s hard for them to accept help. We’re telling them they need to take everything they need.
“Tell everyone at GCU this: Nothing sent will go unused. These donations will help Joplin for months to come.”
Missouri Southern State University, an NCAA Division II school that has an enrollment of nearly 5,000 students and is located in Joplin, has stepped up to meet a number of needs. The campus has served as a shelter, a volunteer center and a makeshift morgue. On Sunday, it hosted a memorial service at which Obama spoke.
“We can’t know when a terrible storm will strike, or where, or the severity of the devastation that it may cause,” the president told his audience. “We can’t know why we’re tested with the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a home where we’ve lived a lifetime.
“These things are beyond our power to control. But that does not mean we are powerless in the face of adversity. How we respond when the storm strikes is up to us. How we live in the aftermath of tragedy and heartache, that’s within our control. And it’s in these moments, through our actions, that we often see the glimpse of what makes life worth living in the first place.”
News reports from the Joplin Globe contributed to this article.
Reach Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.