Author Archives: Joplin Expats

Remembering, Honoring and Helping – An informal List of Ways to Help

Today is May 22nd, the day two years ago that tore many lives apart, yet also brought so many together, including Joplinites living all over the globe. In remembering the Joplin tornado, honoring the fallen and the heroes, and helping those affected by that event and others, including Moore, Oklahoma, we have compiled a list of ways you can help those affected by Mother Nature’s all-too-frequent tornado damage.

Disclaimer: This is of course not an all-inclusive list, of course, and you may know of organizations and events you’d rather assist. But if you are searching for a way to help, here are some great options.

Non-Expats Events: These  events and organizations are not affiliated with The Joplin Expats, yet they are the perfect combination of Joplin helping Moore, and we are familiar with their recent work.

Official Expats Events: We include these fundraisers because we are directly organizing them, know exactly where the money will go, and trust them 100%.

Expats for Shelters: A partnership between the Joplin Expats and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation, this is a continuing, year-long effort meant to build shelters for families in Joplin.

TONIGHT – 5.22: A Happy Hour to Benefit Moore, Oklahoma + Joplin, Missouri: Organized by The Joplin Expats of Chicago, this is a celebration of recovery and a fundraiser for both Joplin and Moore, OK.

Joplin Expats receive Best Educational Website award from the Missouri State Teachers Association

The MSTA awarded Joplin Expats their Best Educational Website for 2012

The Joplin Expats received the Missouri State Teachers Association’s (MSTA) 2012 award for best educational website. The MSTA is Missouri’s leading education association, with more than 44,000 members, and has been serving Missouri educators for 156 years.

Each year, the association’s statewide Public Relations Committee meets in Columbia to judge nominations from around the state. The competition recognizes outstanding coverage of education and education issues by Missouri’s media. In addition, MSTA recognizes school district communication achievements.

“The Joplin Expats and its network of global Joplinites who made it possible, are pleasantly surprised to receive this award.” said Todd Greene, President and Co-founder of Joplin Expats. “Our organization would not be possible without online communications, and we are blessed to have been managed by an extremely web-savvy board, and to be followed by an always-on audience. Aggregating the stories of Joplin and its followers over the past year has not been an easy task, but one that has been well worth it as we know we have made a difference in the lives of many.”

Nominations are judged on originality, impact, objectivity, timeliness, appeal and contribution to education. Awards will be presented to winners at the MSTA regional meetings in the fall. Additional notable award winners are KSNF-TV in Joplin in the Television Features category, St. Louis Public Radio in the Radio Series category, and the Sedalia Democrat in the Newspaper Photography and Editorials categories.

Read the MSTA’s full press release for the annual awards here:

Project JOMO to donate the first shelter in the Joplin Expats’ Cycle for Joplin and Expats for Shelters program

Hannah thanking Russ while he and his team build her new storm shelter.

A Joplin-area family recently received a life-changing gift: A free storm shelter for their home. Project JOMO, in an effort to support The Joplin Expats’ mission to bring storm shelters to 20 Joplin families, has donated the first storm shelter in the name of the Expats for Shelters program. Recipients Jon and Dawn Brazelton, and most importantly their two children, Cheyenne, 15 and Hannah, 5, are the first family to receive their storm shelter.

“When choosing this first family for our Project JOMO shelter donation, we couldn’t help but consider the exciting future that the Joplin Expats have in helping the Joplin community,” said Russel Gehrke, founder of Project JOMO. “Giving families the peace of mind their children deserve is Project JOMO and Joplin Expats’ shared purpose.”

For the Brazelton’s, minor electrical outages and rain have caused both Hannah and Cheyenne to panic in the months after the tornado. The first night it happened was shocking and worrisome for their mother.

“Hannah ran to me and clung to me so hard for so long she was shaking for almost an hour,” Mrs. Brazelton said. “I was trying to find flashlights and I could hardly move because I had to carry them both with me. It wasn’t even storming that night. My girls who used to go to bed during the loudest storms with not an ounce of fear, are now terrified at just the sound of a strong wind,” Dawn said.

In an explainable twist, Hannah, the 5-yr-old, has actually emotionally recovered more swiftly than Cheyenne, the 15-yr-old. “The night of the storm, our 15-year year-old daughter’s only thought was to keep her baby sister safe. She could have covered her own ears, tried to save herself the fear, but she chose to sacrifice her own for her sister.”

Project JOMO’s donated storm shelter in the process of being built

Cheyenne has to take medication for anxiety now, and something most nights to help her sleep. It has been almost a year now and she still has a very hard time talking about that day, she tries to hide her tears when she does–but a mother knows. Hannah and mom don’t talk about it either. They just aren’t ready, even now, though they have recently started taking more steps in that direction with the knowledge that they will soon have a shelter to keep them safe.

“We hope that our Expats for Shelters initiative, including Cycle for Joplin, Gimme Shelter (Chicago-area fundraiser managed by Cage & Aquarium productions), our Global Moment of Silence that coincided with the City of Joplin’s moment of silence, and donations from gracious local storm shelter companies not only raise funds to bring peace to children of the Joplin area, but also bring awareness and media attention to this important and overlooked issue of children’s emotional rebuilding. It will be a long recovery for many area families, and anyone who has the capacity to help should consider it.”

Donations are 100% tax deductible and can be made by sending a check marked “Expats for Shelters” to:

320 East 4th Street
Joplin, MO 64801

Anyone can make online donations at

Dawn says that her children are more excited for the shelter than they were about their Christmas gifts.

“Hannah is counting down the days to what she calls ‘SHELTER DAY.’ Every morning she tells me how many days we have left. Cheyenne wants to know if she can sleep in it when it storms. To us, it isn’t just a shelter, it is hope, faith, healing, peace of mind, safety for our children.”

Joplin Expat Chip Gubera and the story behind A Tornado Story

July’s Featured Expat: Chip Gubera (by Rachel Crow Deyo)

A Joplin, Missouri documentary: A Tornado StoryExpat and Media Professor at MU, Chip Gubera has written and directed many full-length and short films and drawn inspiration from various aspects of his life and the world around him. His family, current political atmosphere and even 9/11 and the responses to the war on terror became ideas and themes in some of his creative works. However, nothing moved him more than the tragedy that
devastated his hometown on May 22, 2011 that sparked the creation of his latest documentary Joplin: A Tornado Story.

Gubera, a 1994 graduate of Joplin High, has many fond memories of his growing-up years and playing music with great friends in several local bands in the early 90′s. He remembers the music scene during that time as fun and creative playing with bands like Kaos, Why?, The Chickens and even
Big Bad Chubba for a brief time.

“I was a punk kid when I left Joplin, still one at heart I suppose,” Gubera said. “I really did not understand the professional world or how to really take care of myself, that things wouldn’t just happen. I had a lot of growing up and learning to do, but I had a dream and I wanted to be creative.”

Gubera left MSSU at the beginning of his junior year to transfer to MU to study film-making. This led to many professional opportunities including a faculty position of the IT program teaching media and post film production.

Chip Gubera

Gubera on set

Gubera currently lives in the art district of Columbia Missouri within walking distance from the university where he teaches. He and his girlfriend of 11 years, Mara Aruguete, live a fairly quiet life and even maintain a large vegetable garden behind their white-picket fence. Mara teaches Psychology at Lincoln University in Jefferson City and helps Chip with his films. It was in their quiet home, behind their picket fence that Chip heard the news about Joplin and the Ef5 tornado.

Alone on that Sunday evening with Mara away on a trip, Chip was trying to get his workout finished and shower before a large storm hit the area. He was still on his exercise bike when the local news team interrupted the program he was watching on TV to report that Joplin Missouri had been destroyed by a massive tornado.

“I was just pedaling away, not really processing what I had just heard,” Gubera explained. “I looked down at the timer and saw I still had 15 minutes left and then it hit me. I started making phone calls to my family but could not get through and I didn’t know what that meant. I got very scared.”

Gubera thought about all his family members who still lived in Joplin as he scrambled to get his hands on any information that might ease his mind. He looked online and found a twitter feed where people were asking for help in Joplin. He found a police scanner and and then tuned into the live feed
from the Weather Channel.

“The reality of the situation began to sink in,” Gubera said. “I got in my car and started to head for Joplin.”

Stopping just a few blocks from his home, Chip realized that he did not have a plan. He had not packed anything, had no idea what he would be walking into or if he would even have a place to stay. Reluctantly he returned home and once again tried to get through to his family and was able to leave a message for his mother. Three hours later she returned his call and gave him the news he had been anxiously waiting to hear.

“My family was lucky, and my mom was so calm,” he said. “She had checked on all the relatives and everyone was fine.”

The call was brief and cut off after just a few minutes. Chip stayed at home that night and watched as the internet fed him details of the disastrous event. The next day he listened to the live feed from Zimmer Radio in Joplin as he packed. He loaded his car with a chainsaw and bottled water and headed to his hometown on May 24 to help.

Chip could only stay in Joplin for a few days before obligations in Columbia required his attention. During the week he spent at home taking care of things in order to head back to Joplin, he communicated with his sister Kristin, an employee at Freeman Hospital.

“She [Kristin] said that everyone was talking and sharing stories of survival, hope and courage and that I should be down there with my camera documenting it,” Gubera said.

Kristin explained that people needed to talk and tell their stories and sharing them would be good for those individuals and for the community. Since Chip’s main skills were focused on video and film production and storytelling, this seemed like a great idea.

“This is a facet of what I teach and a way I could truly help the community,” Gubera said.

Replacing the chainsaw with his camera and audio equipment, he headed back to Joplin to help in the best capacity he could. Chip’s father, Dr. Conrad Gubera, a professor at MSSU had just returned from a trip to England where he had taken several students on an educational trip. He asked Chip if he could help film and accompanied him every time he went out.

“He started to really take on a producer role by introducing me to city officials, press and helped me get the majority of the interview subjects,” Gubera said. “It was a wonderful and rewarding experience for me to work with my father in this way.”

Chip began to shoot everything he could, not really certain about the direction or what the story would be. Once he began to collect interviews, the film started to take shape. Jeremiah Cook, local news reporter offered his knowledge of weather as well as his first-hand account as he experienced the storm unfolding while at work. Not only does he explain the science of the powerful tornado that
rolled through Joplin, he lends a unique and touching recollection of his thoughts and fears as he helplessly watched the twister move over parts of his town. He describes the reality of watching the destruction unfold where he new friends and family were working and staying and even his own home as he worried about the safety of his wife.

“I wanted to tell a story that made the people of Joplin three-dimensional,” Gubera said. “I wanted to paint a three-dimensional picture of the storm and the aftermath.”

Chip set out to answer questions about how a city, their government and people react after a tragedy and why Joplin had responded in such a heroic way. He wanted to know if there was a precedent, or characteristics in the community to explain what was happening. With the help of Brad Belk, Executive Director of the Joplin Museum Complex, an interesting theory arose. Joplin’s history of a mining town leads many to believe that the community has a legacy of strength and survival, stubbornness and pride. Chip believes it was these attitudes that he witnessed while growing up in Joplin that enabled people to react so heroically on May 22.

“Joplin is historically a hard-working, tough and strong town,” Gubera said. “I believe this is a part of who Joplin is today and it comes from a legacy of southern pride and honor. It is the thing that makes a man stand up for the honor of a woman, makes a mother teach her children manners and respect, makes a person stand up for what is right, work hard and provide for their families.”

Chip believes that we all [Joplin natives] have Southern roots whether we like it or not and he tries to exhibit those qualities in his everyday life. After viewing his documentary, a neighbor had these kind words to say to Chip:

“It now seems fitting that I met you shoveling snow off of my front porch!”

Joplin: A Tornado Story has been shown in several towns, including Columbia, Joplin, St. Louis and most recently, Chicago. The response to the film has been very positive and Chip has been pleased by audience reactions. He wanted to make the film as a honest as possible and answer so many questions people would have about such a tragedy.

“The screening in Joplin went great,” Gubera said. “It was emotional for most, but I was told that many found it cathartic as well.”

After the screening, time was allowed for a question and answer period. Many in attendance thanked Chip for telling their story, the real story of what happened in Joplin.

“Joplin is a fantastic town, a tough town, a strong town, a kind and welcoming town,” Gubera said. “It is my hometown that I am so proud to be from.”

Read more about Chip Gubera and his films at

President Obama speaks to current and future Joplin Expats

Joplin Expats Obama Quote

Our words exactly, Mr. President. Joplin formed us, and we will always appreciate it, whether we end up outside of the city limits or not.

For those of us not there today, we can participate and show our respect. Our virtual, global moment of silence is a way we can honor the lost, and pay homage to all that happened one year ago. We can also make an optional, respectful donation of any amount as a virtual ‘ticket’ to the moment of silence: (100% tax deductible)

Global Moment of Silence for Joplin

To help our global network of expatriates and friends remember the devastation that forever changed the town that helped form us, The Joplin Expats is organizing this Global Moment of Silence at 5:41 pm on May 22nd, 2012.

We are also offering a way to help Joplin families move forward, and to provide security to those families and children who are helpless every time a storm approaches the Joplin area.

By “purchasing” your virtual ticket to the Global Moment of Silence, you are making a donation to the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation – Joplin Expats’ Storm Shelter Fund, where we will be aiming to raise enough money to purchase 20 storm shelters for Joplin families in need. You can donate through your virtual ticket here:

All donations are 100% tax deductible.

5:41 on 5/22

Our first Cycle for Joplin Corporate Sponsors

We would like to introduce everyone to our first Cycle for Joplin corporate sponsors.

These companies all support the mission to bring safety and security to Joplin’s children, while also being part of something exciting and fun. Thank you all!

And if you’re company wants to be a part of something special, have them contact us at

To provide storm shelters for Joplin families, an expat & friend are cycling 8 hours a day for 20 straight days

Cycle for Joplin fundraiser for Joplin storm sheltersIn two weeks we’re sending our President, Todd Greene on a 20-day, 1,500-mile bike ride from New York City to Joplin.

Huh?! What?! Why?!

Want to know more? Below you can read the official press release in conjunction with the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. You can help by donating here:

Cycle for Joplin | Cycle for Shelters

From Central Park to Cunningham Park is 1,500 miles through 7 states and tornado alley.


The 20 Day Ride Will Cover 1,500 Miles, Seven States, and Run Directly Through Tornado Alley

Joplin, Mo., April 15, 2012 – On Sunday, April 29, Todd Greene and David duCille will depart from Manhattan’s Central Park for a 1,500 mile, 20-day bike ride to raise funds for Joplin, Mo., the town devastated a year ago when a tornado ripped through the community.  Coinciding with the first anniversary of the natural disaster, the duo plan to raise $50,000 to build an additional 20 storm shelters in the town.

Cycle for Joplin

Cycle for Joplin

Greene, a Joplin native, moved back to Joplin after living in New York for over decade. An avid athlete, he struck up a friendship with duCille in New York, where the gentlemen became baseball teammates and bicycling partners. duCille himself runs a personal training business in Manhattan.

“Right after the tornado hit, the idea to ride my bike from New York to Joplin to raise awareness for my hometown was stuck in my head. It was at a time of deep contemplation for me. I knew I had to do something and this seemed like a natural idea,” said Greene, who co-founded The Joplin Expats, an organization that aggregates the philanthropic passions of a global Joplinite network.

Both wanted to jump on their bikes immediately but Greene and duCille delayed the trip in “anticipation of a time when Joplin still needed help, but attention for the town may have waned,” said Greene.

The ride will take an average of eight hours each day for 20 days, and will cover 1,500 miles—much of it straight through Tornado Alley in the peak of tornado season. The duo will chronicle their trip at

All money raised during the ride will support the building of 20 new storm shelters in the Joplin area.

“Todd would tell me how the children in Joplin were terrified at weather reports of rain or the simple sound of heavy wind blowing,” said duCille. “If you’d have told me a few years ago that I’d be cycling to some small town in Southwest Missouri, I’d have said you were crazy. But I did choose my personal training career to help people, and by helping Todd, and families in his home town, this is the epitome of altruism.”

The Joplin Expats is coordinating Cycle for Joplin, and The Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation is managing the donations. You can follow the ride and donate to the cause at

“It is unbelievable for our donors and sponsors to provide peace of mind and Joplin Area chamber of Commerce Foundation and Cycle for Joplinsecurity to the children of Joplin in this way,” said Tonya Sprenkle, Vice President of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce. “But what is symbolic is this ride telling the nation that Joplin is back, ready for business, and immeasurably thankful for its 120,000+ volunteers from all over the country.”

Todd adds, “No matter where you’re from, try to visit our great town. If you volunteered before: come see the progress you helped make. If you lived here in the past: come reunite with your roots. If you’re just driving through historic Route 66 or I-44 on your way to St. Louis or Tulsa, stop in and have a bite to eat. And if you’re just kind of crazy, hop on your bike and cycle from halfway across the country!”

Follow the ride, donate or sponsor by visiting

Honoring the 1-year anniversary, and moving forward

Joplin ExpatsTornado season has approached the Joplin region, and therefore, so is the first anniversary of the storm that changed Joplin and its people forever.

As the storm warnings and tornado damage have already begun across the Midwest and South, The Joplin Expats are proud to announce we will be honoring this anniversary, the storm victims and volunteers by helping prepare Joplin for a future of security, comfort and growth.

The Joplin Expats will be spending the entire summer raising money for storm shelters in Joplin.

If you are an Expat, local Joplinite, or a friend of Joplin’s and would like help raising funds for Joplin storm shelters, email us at

In the meantime, check out our first program (official announcement coming

Cycle for Joplin

Cycle for Joplin

later today):

The Woman Behind the Music: Tony Lucca’s Joplin Expat Wife

Rachel Amayo: Tony Lucca's Joplin Expat Wife

Rachel Amayo: Tony Lucca's Joplin Expat Wife

Tonight’s episode of The Voice has quite a deep Joplin connection. Behind the infamous Tony Lucca, who even has the love of his Mouseketeer cohort Justin Timberlake, is a supportive wife who’s been inspiring him for the most exciting years of his growing career. He’s gone from Britney Spears’ grade school crush to a Joplin Expats’ lifelong love. Rachel Amayo, whose family owns and runs Casa Montez, is the woman behind Tony.

Rachel was kind enough to make time for an exclusive, quick Q&A with The Joplin Expats, even during these busy few months of her family’s newfound celebrity lifestyle.

Q: Give us a quick timeline of your  life since you left Joplin, and what circumstances took you away.

A: I left Joplin in the Spring of 2000, all in the name of change really.   I moved to New York with a friend, sharing a Brooklyn flat with a group of fellow Joplinites for a few months before moving to Los Angeles. I lived right in the middle of Hollywood for 12 years. This past July we decided to relocate to Michigan to be closer to (Tony’s) family.

Q: How often have you been back to, or spoken to family and friends in Joplin?

A: I try to make it back home at least 2-3 times a year. Our kids love spending time in Joplin, as do we.

Q: Where were you, what were you doing, and what was your reaction when the tornado hit Joplin?

A: I was at home (in LA) getting dinner started and helping my son with his homework when I noticed I had a missed call from my parents, within 3 minutes my phone was ringing  again, I was hearing “Rachel!  We’ve been  hit!  Joplin got hit by a major tornado just a few minutes ago… Everyone in our family is accounted for… But it’s bad. Very very bad… Home Depot is gone. Walmart is gone…” I fell to my knees right there in the middle of the kitchen, flooded by emotion for all of Joplin.  The next few hours were pretty quiet, most phone lines were down.

Q: What do you remember from your time in Joplin, and how do you think it influenced you?

A: I think more than anything, Joplin afforded me a strong sense of belonging… Friends, family and co-workers I surrounded myself with all had a wealth of love and support to share, with open arms.  I believe the feeling that imparted was the foundation of my strength, my character. Wow, that poured out. Like I said, I’ve been hyper sensitive to my emotional side lately. ;)

Q: How has your life changed today, after this latest opportunity of Tony’s?

A: Life has been wonderfully busy. What a whirlwind!  After Tony’s blind audition aired, we were inundated with texts, emails, phone calls… A lot of love and support out there.  It has been quite the emotional ride… So truly grateful and proud of all the love we have been receiving from friends and family, and even strangers.

Q: Has Tony, your son, or any of their family been to Joplin? And if so, what have they done/liked/disliked?

A: We came through Joplin on our way to Michigan last July.  Tony and Liam actually volunteered with my brother cooking and passing out food.  Liam is very much a bleeding heart, especially for his age, so having the opportunity to be hands on in helping after the tornado filled the ache he was feeling for all the disaster he was seeing.

We actually just left Joplin in March, my parents watched the kids for us so I could travel with Tony to a few shows.  I think every trip to Joplin starts with Casa for dinner and ends with Casa for dinner. :)  Still can’t get enough of it.