Cedar Valley volunteers reflect upon lessons learned from Joplin - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Cedar Valley volunteers reflect upon lessons learned from Joplin

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

One year ago Tuesday, Joplin was hit by one of the deadliest storms in history. A few days later, a group of good Samaritans from the Cedar Valley packed up their trucks and headed to the heart of the devastation.

Matt Mulnix recalled the phone call from his friend Josh Lux that would, ultimately, change how he views life and service.

"The tornado happened on Sunday. The morning after he called me and said, he was looking for a couple guys with chainsaws and throw stuff together and head down there for two to three days," said Mulnix.

What started as a couple guys with chainsaws turned into a massive team effort.

"We got an overwhelming response from not only volunteers who want to go down and help out, but from all of the Cedar Valley," Lux said.

About two dozen volunteers drove south with trailers full of supplies. Once they arrived, they realized how much more the town would need.

"It was overwhelming to see it. A lot of people cried about it. It's devastating to think that -- it's 161 lives lost," said Mulnix.

"It was a blessing to be there to help them. But the work was just overwhelming. There was just too much to be done. It felt like we weren't able to handle it all," agreed Lux.

The volunteers worked nearly non-stop over their four days before returning home. It was hard to leave knowing so much still needed to be done, but they were glad they went.

"It's not that I never helped people out, but it wasn't something that was that strong on my heart before. Now that I had an opportunity to get involved... there's a lot to do. There are a lot of opportunities to help out your neighbor," said Mulnix.

For example, Lux is creating an emergency response ministry at his church so when a disaster does happen, he has a team of people trained and ready to go at a moment's notice.

"We're going to be focused on helping people that have been affected by natural and man-made disasters," said Lux.

They're also helping out in smaller ways. After a recent thunderstorm, Mulnix noticed trees down in a neighbor's yard.

"Her husband was out of town and working overseas," Mulnix explained, "so I just got some volunteers that had gone to Joplin and we went over and cleaned it up. And we're going to continue to do that."

It's a change in perception the volunteers may never have experienced had it not been for Joplin.

"It just really encourages me to see people who are so willing to give," Lux added.

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