The Missouri Bar Lawyer Referral Service normally charges potential clients a $25.00 administrative fee to refer them to attorneys. For $25.00, people can get an up-to-thirty minute consultation with an attorney to get legal advice and get their legal questions answered. In response to the flooding in Missouri and the Joplin tornado -- for those folks -- we are waiving the $25.00 fee.
We've had some calls from people who are looking for attorneys to assist them. Most of the referrals have been to lawyers who handle landlord or tenant's rights cases, homeowner and auto insurance situations, and probate law matters. The referral service is extending a helping hand to those people in need.
My friend, Sheri, is from Joplin. She grew up there. After she graduated from high school, she moved away, went to massage therapy school and became a licensed massage therapist. She opened her own business in central Missouri. She still has friends and family in Joplin and visits them now and again. The day after the tornado hit, she called her clients, re-scheduled their massage appointments, and drove down to Joplin.
After a few days, she returned. She loaded up her car with supplies and drove the four hour drive back to Joplin. Now, she spends half of her week in Joplin doing volunteer work, and the other half tending to her massage therapy clients in this area. She, too, is extending a helping hand to people in need.
She told me how she became acquainted with a young high school student from Colorado. As a child, he attended elementary school in Joplin and his family moved away. His Grandmother's sister still lives in Joplin. He and his Grandmother drove from Colorado to help the folks in Joplin. His Grandmother volunteers as a cook. She's cooking meals for the other volunteers who are working there and for tornado survivors.
Every day the young man's Grandmother drops him off at a church where he works. His volunteer job is to separate and sort through all the supplies that are arriving at the church for the folks in need. He works outside where there are tents filled with canned goods, toiletries, pet food, etc. He works half a day there and spends the other half of his day helping with debris removal. The young student and his Grandmother are extending a helping hand to those in need.
Sheri also became acquainted with one of the "chainsaw guys". He's from Minnesota. He's retired. He watched the devastation on TV and decided to go to Joplin to see if he could assist. He got in his RV and drove there, not knowing if he'd be allowed to help. Each morning at 7 AM, he teaches a chainsaw safety class for the AmeriCorps volunteers. After the class, he sharpens chainsaws. Then he spends a good part of his day out in the field repairing broken chain saws for those folks who are cleaning up debris.
Late in the afternoon, he returns to his RV and continues to sharpen saws until there are no more to sharpen for the day. He came by himself with a much-needed skill and planned to spend a month in Joplin doing what he can. He's extending a helping hand too.
The student and his Grandmother will return to Colorado when school starts there. The chainsaw guy will be going back to Minnesota soon. Sheri tells me she'll continue to go to Joplin until she doesn't need to anymore.
In a disaster, people seem to recognize that we're all part of one community and that we're really all in this together. Each of the volunteers I've mentioned didn't wait for someone to ask them to help. Each saw the need and responded.