Following the Tigers on a Build Day

June 29, 2012, 10:00 AM – Temperature: 89⁰F
“The Tigers are coming! The Tigers are coming!”

Two buses arrive at the corner of 25th and Virginia in Joplin, Mo., and Mizzou’s student-athletes, including the gymnastics team, football players and football coach Gary Pinkel, step off the buses to the delight of the volunteers already on location.

Opening introductions are brief and businesslike, and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity executive director Scott Clayton quickly divides the volunteers into five teams. Everyone is ready to work.

Mizzou gymnast Katelyn Trevino collects a tool belt from a bin

Mizzou gymnast Katelyn Trevino collects a tool belt and helmet from one of the provided bins. This is her third trip to Joplin since last year, and she plans to keep volunteering.

“I think the really cool part about this is these are all volunteers,” she says. “No one at Mizzou Athletics is required to come here. Everyone is taking time out of their day, out of their lives to come and help others.”

11:30 AM – Temperature: 92⁰F
The five Mizzou houses in the Joplin Challenge neighborhood have been largely constructed by volunteers in previous visits. Today, it’s their task to put doors, windows and siding on the unfinished buildings. The professional contractor leading Team 3 assigns Trevino to measure and cut siding.

Pat Ivey and Katelyn Trevino measure siding

Pat Ivey, Assistant Director for Athletic Performance, measures and cuts siding at 30, 60 and 90 inches to allow the panels to be staggered when they’re nailed to the walls.

“Some of our edges are not as straight as they could be, so we hope they understand this house was built out of love,” Ivey says with a smile.

This is Ivey’s first time volunteering in Joplin to build houses, and the visit hits a little closer to home for him than for some.

“There was a tornado in Columbia, Missouri in 1998 and my duplex was hit by the tornado,” he says. “So I know what it feels like. It’s definitely something I want to give back because there were some good people that took care of us.”

2:00 PM – Temperature: 96⁰F
Katelyn Trevino drinks a bottle of water

After a hasty lunch of sub sandwiches at noon, it’s back to work and the siding goes up slowly but surely. Temperatures are continuing to rise, and, how is everyone handling the blazing sun and dusty conditions?

“Like a champ,” Trevino says.

“We’re practicing what we preach,” Ivey says. “We’re staying hydrated and taking breaks.”

The Mizzou contingent isn’t the only group of volunteers here today. Volunteers from Joplin businesses and organizations have also been working alongside the athletes and sports staff. Michael Flenniken, general manager of a local Red Lobster, helps cut siding and and assists with other tasks for Team 3’s house.

Michael Flenniken cuts siding

Flenniken was in Joplin last year when the tornado hit.

“It was eerie,” he says. “There’s nothing I can compare it to ever in my life.”

It’s been a while since he’s done construction work – ten years, in fact – but he’s game for it.

“I’ll definitely be coming back to help build these houses because it’s the right thing to do.”

3:00 PM – Temperature: 99⁰
Mizzou Tigers pose in front of a house

Doors, windows and siding have been successfully hung, and the Tigers call it a day. But before heading back to Columbia, first there’s a stop at the Joplin YMCA to play games with local children and sign autographs. Katelyn Trevino directs a lively game of tag along with her fellow athletes.

“I think it’s awesome how kids can see the positives,” Trevino says. “The kids give everyone a reminder that everyone always has a reason to smile everyday, no matter how bad things are.”

Mizzou student-athletes play tag with children at the local YMCA