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Volunteer House is “shrink-wrapped” to protect from weather elements
When the 118,000 plus volunteers came to the aid of Joplin’s recovery efforts, many of them left more than their hard work. They left their inspirational words and messages of hope for the citizens of Joplin. These can be found written on the home at 2502 South Joplin - on the walls, floors, studs and doors, but not on the ceiling. The home’s ceiling was torn off, just as most houses were that lay in the path of the EF-5 tornado that swept through Joplin May 22.

Since the disaster, thousands of volunteers have inscribed messages of support and prayers among the remains of this house. Tim and Stacy Bartow own the house; during the heat of summer, Bartow would often provide water and a resting place for volunteers doing cleanup in the neighborhood and surrounding areas. He had painted the south wall with a large heart and a message “We Love You Volunteers!”

The response to that message has been overwhelming, as the majority of the home’s remaining structure, such as it is, became the tablet for volunteers to leave their notes of praise, affection, admiration and support for the Joplin community. 2502 South Joplin is now referred to as “the Volunteer House”.

“Most of the house is covered with messages to inspire our citizens,” said Mark Rohr, City Manager. “We have come so far in recovery largely because of the volunteers. We are truly indebted to them.”

It is with this thought that the City pursued the Volunteer House’s preservation from the weather elements. “There have been some discussions about various ways we can all reflect on what we’ve been through,” he said. “We wanted the opportunity to keep this house as a reminder of how the volunteers have supported us from day one with their hard work, prayers and encouragement.”

On Tuesday, volunteer crews from Tracker-Marine in Miami, Okla., applied a type of shrink-wrap to the structure to protect it from the weather elements. Work to shore up the damaged house started Friday by volunteers from various organizations including AmeriCorps St. Louis, Willey Construction, and Altura Homes. Ridout Lumber provided materials for the job, as did Tracker-Marine.

When the idea was initially discussed, Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Patrick Tuttle contacted commercial realtor David Glenn with The Glenn Group, to assist in supervising this project. Glenn has knowledge of relocating historic structures, as he moved the Missouri-Pacific Depot from 10th and Main to its current location at 29th and Rangeline Road.

“This project is to save not only a symbol associated with the 118,000+ volunteers who have come to help Joplin,” said Tuttle,” it is also an example of a period home lost in the tornado. Not knowing how the story will be told in the future, if we do not attempt to save some artifacts now we will not have them the future when we are ready. The signatures and messages are a part of this period of Joplin’s history.” Within the next month the plan is to move the sealed structure to property owned by the City of Joplin until a future, final site can be determined. City officials note that this is truly a unique project, but also note that no taxpayer dollars are being utilized for it.

As preserving this house became a reality, the City reached out to individuals and companies who have the expertise and willingness to be a part of this special task.

“We want to thank all involved who donated resources in this effort, including both their labor and materials,” said Rohr.