Category Archives: Chicago

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 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

Lady Antebellum Prom Contest

The Joplin Expats, along with some help from Melissa Blayton and the Joplin Prom Project, put together a submission video for the Lady Antebellum Own The Prom Night contest. Thanks to everyone that submitted and participated, we think the video turned out great and shows great Joplin pride.



We are hoping to win the contest to have Lady A not only come to Joplin for a prom, but create a community prom event for all the students in the area. Hopefully if we all watch and share the video we an help bring the super stars to Joplin to help out whole community Own The Night!


January’s Featured Expat: Tyler Huffman, Full-Time Teacher, Full-Time Entrepreneur, New Father and Expat Philanthropist

January’s Featured Expat: Tyler Huffman (by Rachel Crow Deyo)

Tyler Huffman: Spinning in Preparation for His BBC Joplin Fundraiser

Tyler Huffman: Spinning in Preparation for His BBC Joplin Fundraiser

Recently, Joplin welcomed back one of its own, as Tyler Huffman (Joplin High, ’95) reunited with fellow band members of Big Bad Chubba for a benefit concert over the Holidays (read The Joplin Globe‘s coverage here).  He not only lent his guitar skills, but he also rocked the Blackthorn Pub with the same DJ skills he’s used for years, running his very own Chicago-based DJ business. It was an incredible night of entertainment, raising over $3,000 for rebuilding efforts.

Huffman was one of the founding members of Big Bad Chubba, which originated from the merger of two existing ska bands.   Many band members also lent their talents to Joplin High’s own Ska Band.  Big Bad Chubba, or BBC, played many gigs between 1995 and 1997.

Tyler Huffman and His Daughter Ella

Tyler Huffman and His Daughter Ella

“We used to practice in Kelsey Richardson’s garage,” said Huffman.  “For a period of time, our home base was the upstairs of The Grind, an old coffee shop on Joplin Avenue,” he continued,  “They were extremely supportive of us and we had some of our best shows there.”

BBC had opportunities to play with lots of great bands like The Urge, O’Phil, The Gadjits, and The Scofflaws, traveling to shows in Wichita, Lawrence, Kansas City and Springfield.  “My favorite memory was playing at The Grind during the Local Musicians for Children Benefit in 1997,” said Huffman.

Until their Holiday reunion, BBC had not played together since their last show in 1997.  That same year, Tyler left for college in Columbia, Missouri.  He received his degree in elementary education in 2001 and worked as a Residence Hall Director until landing his first teaching position in Chicago in 2003.

“I feel that teaching is the best job a person can have,” said Huffman.  “I get so much out of every year, that I could never leave it.  I get to work with some amazing kids who constantly inspire me and remind me that the simplicities of life can keep us young-at-heart.”

In 2006, Tyler earned his Masters in Educational Leadership.  Currently, he teaches a 5th and 6th multi-grade classroom in a Japanese Dual Language program.  He feels very lucky to be a part of such a “forward-thinking” learning program.  “I teach during the day and run a small business and parent at night,” said Huffman.

Tyler Huffman Practicing for the Big Bad Chubba Fundraiser Reunion Show

Tyler Huffman Practicing for the Big Bad Chubba Fundraiser Reunion Show

While studying in Columbia, Missouri, Tyler was introduced to a photojournalism student, and it was love at first sight.  Tyler and Shelley were married in 2007. Tyler started Cage and Aquarium Productions (C&A) that same year, and business has grown steadily in the past five years.  C&A offers event entertainment with live musicians, DJ’s and photography.  Tyler said owning a business can be stressful, but believes things have fallen into place because he has surrounded himself with the “right” people, whom he believes to be their strongest asset.

In 2009, Shelley joined Tyler to help continue C&A’s growth. “My amazing wife not only offers her photography talents, but she manages a staff of more than 30 talented individuals,” said Huffman, “C&A has blossomed under her talent and leadership.”  He said Shelley leads by example and keeps everyone on track; she is as professional as she is talented.

What is Tyler’s favorite part of owning his own business?  “C&A satisfies my need to be creative,” he said.  “Our staff is the best in Chicago, hands down.”

Cage and Aquarium averages 4-7 private and public events weekly but keeps any one day limited to 4 events in order to uphold their quality of service.  This may be key in maintaining order to a dual-career lifestyle and raising a family.

In 2010, Tyler put on yet another hat as he and wife Shelley welcomed their first child, Eleanor.  Fatherhood seems to be his favorite role, and he “plays” it well.  “It is everything everyone says it is and more,” said Huffman.

Although they stay very busy, family time is very important.  Tyler appreciates his summer breaks because he gets to spend the days with Eleanor.  “She keeps us grounded and reminds us not to sweat the small stuff,” he said, “Her smile can make you forget all the challenges life brings you professionally.”

Tyler is a passionate and talented musician

Tyler is a passionate and talented musician

Tyler takes his role of fatherhood very seriously.  “It is not just about the obvious rewards of unconditional love for someone,” he explained, “I base all my decisions on what is best for my daughter, so I like having that responsibility to answer to.  She keeps me motivated.”

Tyler needed little motivation to reach out to his hometown in the wake of the May 22 tornado.  Like many people, he was glued to his TV in disbelief.  He has many good memories of Joplin and immediately began reconnecting with people, planning ways to help out where he could and joined the Expats.  Last August, he helped organize a Joplin Expats back-to-school fundraiser in Chicago to benefit Joplin students.

Tyler was thrilled to share some of his hometown pride with fellow Big Bad Chubba band members in a reunion concert to benefit people in their native community.  The December show had been in the works since word spread of the tragic event and was a great way to bring people together who had dispersed to other areas.

“Obviously, we wanted to do as much good as we possibly could in the form of funds,” Huffman said.  “We brought in merchandise and sold special tickets to boost our final numbers; it was great to see so many people we know come out to the show”.

Tyler said Joplin is a wonderful place to grow up.  “There is something special about Joplin, since so many of us tend to blossom wherever we land,” said Huffman. “People tend to be leaders and become successful when they move to other regions.  It sounds crazy, but the phenomenon is on full display in the Joplin Expats.”

Although deeply affected by the destruction in his hometown, Tyler is excited to see the rebuilding now taking place.  He hopes that the town becomes even stronger and learns from other towns like Greensburg, Kansas, implementing greener technologies and making better choices for the environment.  “I hope Joplin rebuilds faster than the experts are saying,” he said.  “Joplin has a way of proving people wrong.”

In our exclusive monthly Featured Expat series, the Joplin Expats are documenting some of our shining lights living throughout the world. If you have a recommendation for a featured Expat, we’d love to hear about them! Email us at info (at)

Featuring: Awesome Expats and “Re-Pats”

Who is this Joplin Expat

Who are these Joplin Expats?

In the coming months, your Joplin Expats team will be bringing you exclusive stories that take you behind the scenes with many of our most interesting Expats–as well as “Re-Pats” who have returned to their home town for good.

Find out who they are, where they are now, and what makes them tick. We already have a growing list of very interesting local and global entrepreneurs, community leaders and world travelers–all with their heart in the Joplin area. If you have any suggestions for featured Expats, email us at info (at) joplinexpats (dot) org.

Our first feature is coming at the end of January: Chicago-based Expat Tyler Huffman will discuss Big Bad Chubba’s upcoming benefit and Reunion show, as well as the constant chaos in his most interesting educational and entrepreneurial life that he and his wife have built.

Big Bad Chubba, (a 90’s Ska band formed in Joplin) will perform at the Blackthorn in Joplin on December 23.

“We arranged the night so there could be a lot of catching up with old friends.” said Huffman “I am really looking forward to people coming out to the show and making music with some great friends.”

The event will provide some talented Joplin natives an opportunity to share their love and support for their hometown.   All proceeds will benefit those impacted by the May 22 tornado and the efforts to rebuild.

Big Bad Chubba Reunion and Joplin Fundraiser

Big Bad Chubba Reunion and Joplin Fundraiser

“This is important to me because music always leads me to the best things in my life.” said Huffman, “I know it will be a wonderful time.”

If you will be in the Joplin area over the Holidays, don’t miss this exciting show. Tickets can be purchased at the Blackthorn for $10.

Joplin Schools Inspirational Back-to-School Video is HERE!

“Opening Day” on August 15, 2011 kicked off the school year for Joplin School Teachers, Staff and Volunteers.  The event was capped off by this video collection of personal messages from Joplin High School alumni and Joplin expats from across the country and from around the world!  Even Barry Manilow, Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum and 3 Doors Down joined to celebrate Joplin’s return to school and to say thanks to all teachers and staff for their selfless service and dedication to Joplin’s youth. #eaglepridenationwide #eagleprideworldwide

First Official City-Specific Joplin Expats Logos

Joplin Expats of Chicago

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of Chicago

Joplin Expats of Dallas

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of Dallas

Joplin Expats of Kansas City

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of Kansas City

Joplin Expats of Los Angeles

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of Los Angeles

Joplin Expats of New York

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of New York

Joplin Expats of Omaha

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of Omaha

Joplin Expats of Puerto Rico

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of Puerto Rico

Joplin Expats of San Francisco

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of San Francisco

Joplin Expats of St. Louis

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of St. Louis

Joplin Expats of Washington D.C.

The Official Logo of The Joplin Expats of Washington D.C.