Back to the Roots

Eight years after a catastrophic Category 5 tornado levelled Irving Elementary in Joplin, Missouri, the school is rebuilt and looking better than ever, thanks to Lions, Leos, and LCIF working together. The Missouri Lions of District M6 and the Carl Junction Leos Club joined forces and went “Back to the Roots” for Earth Day, working to improve the school grounds at Irving. In May of 2011 the Missouri Lions were in Joplin helping residents recover from the tornado that killed more than 150 people and injured more than a thousand, taking down homes and schools in its path. Debbie Cantrell, district governor for M6 at the time, challenged the Lions of Missouri to adopt the first school to reopen after the tornado. That school was Irving Elementary, and Lions planted trees and shrubs on the land left barren by the winds. This year, PDG Cantrell drove past the school and discovered that the children still desperately needed more shade on the playground. She approached the Carl Junction Leos and the Lions of M6, and in one day more than 40 Leos and Lions with volunteers from area service organizations laid 2,000 pounds of mulch, donated and planted nine mature shade trees, and built a 12-by-12-foot pergola. Carl Junction Leos Alex Brownstein, Jackson Hinderliter, and Madeleine Garoutte work on a landscaping project at Irving Elementary School in Joplin, Missouri. Photo by Laurie Sisk/Joplin Globe. Irving Principal Josh Depoe, who spent the day spreading mulch with the volunteers, says, “It was a blessing to have them. The pergola was the one piece that surprised me. When I showed up at 7:15 they already had the posts in the ground.” Led by the Carl Junction Leo Club, District 26-M6 was awarded a US$2,500 LCIF Leo Service grant to help them implement the project. Lions of District M6 contributed an additional US$2,500. Cantrell says this project gave the Leos the unique opportunity to work with an entire district of Lions. “I wanted to come up with a project that has a lot of meaning to the area,” she says. “The shade is really needed here because there were so many trees lost in the tornado.” About 500 students at the elementary school will especially appreciate these additions over the late summer months when the days can be sweltering in southwest Missouri and school has started, says Depoe. “Everything is done now and it’s great.”