Kristi Monschein and her husband JT are well known real estate agents for Prudential Alliance in Wildwood.
She and her children wanted to do something for the survivors in Joplin, MO that would be meaningful at Christmas, the most joyful time of the year.
Working on behalf of the family’s parish St. Alban Roe, Kristi put out the word to help those less fortunate in Joplin, MO who lived through the devastating May tornado that ravaged the community.
She enlisted the help of the youth group at the parish. She asked teengers there if any had volunteer hours to fulfill. They descended upon her like locusts avoiding the plague. Everything was confirmed at a retreat in October. Collections went on for some time.
The goal was to provide hundreds of memorable Christmas items for surviviors, to be distributed locally by the Joplin Family Worship Center.
Many survivors are living in government-provided trailers, much too small to house live trees. Donations included 50 small artificial trees for those living in temporary housing.
More than 150 families and some 300 people will have a brighter Christmas in Joplin, in part because of this drive.
Teenagers' collection baskets included artificial Christmas trees and wreaths, garland, lights, decorations, nativity scenes, yard displays and more.
Julie Zentz is a transplanted North Carolinian and mom from Wildwood who helped with the project. Her daughter Allison is an eighth-grader at Villa Duchesne’s Middle School.
“We wanted to bring a little joy into the life of those who lost everything,” Zentz said. “Most of the people there (in Joplin) lost everything. They literally escaped only with the clothes on their backs. More than 40 percent of them had no insurance and rely on the government assistance for all their help.”
The Joplin Family Worship Center continues to serve three hot meals a day for anyone in need. More than 100,000 people have volunteered their time to help out in Joplin since May.
On Nov. 18, youth volunteers loaded up a U-Haul truck and two Suburbans with everything they had collected. The vehicles were jammed.
The convoy of helpers departed St. Alban Roe at Highway 109 and Shepard Road for the 240-mile trip to Joplin. The group holed up in the Hilton for two days. These were students mostly from Eureka and Lafayette high schools, but also came from St. Joseph’s Academy, CBC, De Smet, Villa Duchesne and St. Louis University High School.
“I remember the day we were giving everything away. It was warm and windy. The distribution was scheduled to be from noon until 4 o’clock, but a long line of people were lined up as early as 10 a.m.,” Zentz said.
The kids and parents all wore special red T-shirts that stated, “Bringing a little Joy to Joplin.”
“It was heartbreaking. The people were just so nice and appreciative. When we finished, the shelves were cleaned out. By 4 p.m., everything was taken and there were still a few people still in line,” Zentz said.
“I’m just so happy and thankful I took part,” Allison said. “Everyone there just has so much hope,” she said.
Sponsors for the drive were: Casual Tees, Dodge Moving & Storage, Finer Image, KTRS Radio, Prudential Alliance Realtors, Pulaski Bank, St. Alban Roe, St. John’s Church of Ellisville, THF Realty, Three French Hens, and Vanliner Insurance.