Frankfort developer Michael Davenport returned today from Joplin, Mo., where he and his family helped distribute supplies and gave $100 bills to survivors. A tornado struck the area on May 22 killing 146, and 29 are still missing. Davenport said he felt called to help the survivors and left Friday in his motor home to deliver supplies to a church there.
“God put it on my heart,” he said.
His wife, Kimberly, daughter Chandler, 5, and son Chamberlin, 8, went with him Saturday. They helped with the clean-up efforts and delivered supplies and visited with survivors before heading back to Frankfort.
“I believe this is an experience that will serve them well for the rest of their lives,” Davenport said of the decision to bring his children along.
Davenport’s children attend Cornerstone Christian Academy in Shelbyville, and the school organized a donation drive to collect supplies. The academy collected dozens of boxes of toothpaste, baby diapers and cleaning materials. The Davenports volunteered to deliver them this weekend.
“It was pretty full, but I never thought about gauging it,” he said. “It was just an abundance of supplies.”
He left Friday evening and spent the night at a rest stop about 60 miles from Joplin. The supplies were delivered the next morning to a church, one of the few remaining structures in the Joplin area.
“When you get on the outskirts of town billboards are missing, road signs are bent over and there are tree limbs and debris everywhere,” Davenport said.
“It’s terrible but in no way were we prepared for what we were seeing. It’s just a disaster. The devastation here, there is almost nothing left. We drove by some buildings with book cases in them and the books were right on the shelves like nothing had been touched.”
After they delivered the supplies at the church, Davenport and his family gave water to volunteers, helped clean up broken glass and visited with survivors. Davenport said he decided to give $100 from his own pocket to several families who had lost their homes.
“We count our own blessings every day,” he said, declining to say how much he gave away.
Recipients, many of whom had lost everything, started to cry, Davenport said.
In the middle of all the devastation, Davenport said he could see the presence of God. Many survivors had spray painted words of thanks for volunteers and phrases praising God on the shattered remains of their homes, Davenport said.
“God is hard at work here,” he said.
Volunteers cooked food on grills and gave it to anyone who asked, Davenport said. Others offered free tire repairs and chainsaw sharpening.
“Everywhere I look, the good in people stands out,” Davenport said.
Volunteers and survivors joined in prayer circles. In one instance, a man who had lost everything asked for God to protect Davenport and his family while they were in Joplin.
“That caught me off guard,” Davenport said. “There he was he lost everything and he was praying for us.”