JOPLIN, Mo. — The semitrailer was full, and the sleeper cab brimming over with eight volunteers, when an 18-wheeler from the University of Northwestern Ohio pulled into this tornado-ravaged town Friday morning.University volunteers collected the cargo, all donated by Lima-area residents and businesses, during a three-day collection drive for Joplin, where a massive tornado three weeks ago leveled thousands of buildings and killed more than 100 people.The six UNOH students and two advisers who delivered the goods stuck around to help sort and move other truckloads of food, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies and other materials that were piling up rapidly at Joplin's Multi Relief Agency Facility.“They are so overwhelmed with stuff that it's actually stacked outside, so some of our students have been helping sort it. The others are reloading the semi, and we've been transporting it down the road to an old Air Force base,” said Doug Downing, instructor and diesel club adviser. “The people here are concerned that, in the next few months, when FEMA pulls out and the relief people start leaving, that's when the people are really going to struggle, so they're trying to start stockpiling some of the stuff for distribution then.”The volunteers' 12-hour workday started around 5:30 a.m. They took a break for lunch and a tour of what's left of the devastated town.What they saw, the students said, was a town in shock.“The toughest part is not knowing where to start,” junior Cory Meadows said. It's so bad. Where do they start? With just cleaning up? With a bulldozer? They're just having a hard time getting going.”Classmate Ashley Howell, a member of UNOH's diesel club, said the devastation defied description. Services, delivery systems and chains of command are broken down along with homes and businesses, said the Springfield native.“This cleanup isn't going to be an overnight or even a couple of months' process,” Howell said. Confusion was apparent even among the relief workers, he said.Jeremiah Schwalm worked with a team of individuals from Texas, New York and Missouri, building a loading dock for a food Pantry.“It was amazing to see how many people came together to do this, to work for one common goal,” said Schwalm, a Kutztown, Pa., resident and member of UNOH's FFA.The UNOH semitrailer is modified for commercial driver license training. Instead of a bed, the sleeper cab is equipped with a “horseshoe bench” with seat belts for six students to ride along.“It was kind of crowded, but we made it,” Downing said. “It's air-conditioned.”The volunteers were staying at a motel in Springfield, Mo., Friday night before making the 12-hour, 700-mile return trip.All of the volunteers are underclassmen. The university didn't want to risk any seniors missing Sunday's commencement.Donations filled the semitrailer, Downing said. Cash contributions were converted into gift cards redeemable for ice and other perishable items.The school's diesel club, FFA, drag club and motorsports team took part in the collection. The other students who made the delivery were: Rob Covault and Charles Feeney, drag club; and Matt Conner, ROTC.Instructor Aaron Roth, another diesel club adviser, also made the trip. Newton Oil Co./Dragon Race Fuels paid fuel costs for the trip.
Sweat seasons semi-load of UNOH relief