Boston University Aids Tornado-Ravaged Joplin, Missouri: Provides Mattresses, Microfridges For Homeless (BU Today)

BU Today, 6/3/2011, by Leslie Friday

On May 22, one of the deadliest tornadoes ever to hit the Midwest ripped through Joplin, Mo., killing at least 139 people. With winds of 200 mph, the storm annihilated 8,000 homes and apartment complexes and destroyed nearly a third of the city’s housing. At last count, 29 people remain missing.

Many residents lost everything in the aftermath of the EF5 tornado, which cut a 13-mile-long swath through the heart of the city. Now, nearly two weeks later, many of the survivors are either living with family and friends or have found temporary shelter in school gymnasiums or community centers. Relief agencies nationwide have stepped in to fill the void left by the tornado.

This week, Boston University joined in the relief efforts, donating 150 MicroFridges and 75 mattresses to the New Hampshire–based recycling network IRN, which regularly provides donated construction materials, office equipment, and furniture to disaster-struck communities around the globe.

The University replaces the MicroFridges in the dorms every seven years, and the ones hauled from Warren Towers Wednesday morning were scheduled to be replaced by new, energy-efficient appliances.

“It works out well for both worlds,” says Shawn Stone, the University’s manager of vending services. “And it keeps BU green.”

Office supply chain Staples volunteered to transport the items from Boston to Joplin by semi-trailer. The company has already shipped—at no charge—diapers, formula, cots, hygiene products, and office equipment to the ravaged city, according to Tom Quinlan, a Staples senior manager for furniture operations.

“We’re not in it for the public relations,” Quinlan said as he helped position MicroFridges in the Staples truck.

The donated items should arrive Monday and will immediately be distributed among shelter residents, according to IRN chief operating officer Dana Draper. The units run on relatively little power, a boon since gas-powered generators are still the only source of electricity in Joplin.

The University of Central Missouri at Warrensburg is providing bed frames to pair with the mattresses from BU, Draper says.

This isn’t the first time BU has collaborated with IRN. The University has recycled computers, construction waste, metals, fluorescent lamps, and wood waste with the network since 2002. And through IRN, BU has sent more than 700 tons of furnishings and equipment (such as dorm and office furniture and sports, laboratory, and medical equipment) for reuse in disaster relief efforts in four states and six countries.

Draper says he immediately thought of BU when the organization began planning its Joplin relief efforts. “I know BU is always there when needed,” he says. “That’s what they do.”

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday[at]; follow her on Twitter at@lesliefriday.

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