May 22nd will be the third anniversary of the massive EF-5 tornado that wreaked havoc in Joplin Missouri. The whirlwind that swept through Joplin was one of the deadliest in U.S. history, taking over 150 lives and injuring thousands; physically, mentally and emotionally. One third of Joplin was literally wiped off of the map.
In the hours, days, weeks and months that followed, Joplin received a world-wide outpouring of support that also set records. Besides tons of tangible goods, millions upon millions of dollars flowed into the city as well. Millions of these dollars were raised by nationally recognized charitable organizations.
One of these organizations was the Salvation Army. According to their website, in the immediate days following the disaster, they were feeding up to 10,000 people a day. I remember a lot of food being served up all over the city by hundreds of different groups, 10,000 a day is very impressive.
What is also impressive is the amount of money the Salvation Army raised towards Joplin’s tornado relief. As a matter of fact, so much money was pouring into their organization, they “needed” to hire a “director of development.” Callie Hudson got the job, and one of her tasks was to recruit a volunteer advisory board of leading Joplin citizens.
According to Hudson, “I went on a kind of 90 day campaign around Joplin and spoke to as many people as I could about what we were going to be doing in Joplin.” It was the board’s job to help decide how to best spend the relief funds. However some of the former board members have since expressed that they did not feel that the overseer’s were really listening to them.
The Midland Division of the Salvation Army in St. Louis, MO oversees Joplin.
According to a Salvation Army representative who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Salvation Army raised right at $4.8million towards Joplin’s recovery. However, of that amount, approximately $1million is all that has been spent in the past three years.
That leaves around $3.8million still sitting in the bank.
Three years later, and the Salvation Army is still holding on to almost 80% of the money raised to support Joplin. And you can be assured that when the “army” was soliciting the donations, they did not say, “Please donate to the Joplin tornado relief so we can sit on the money for three years.” As a matter of fact, their campaigns implied that people were going to be helped immediately with the funds.
Even more distressing than the small amount spent, is where the money went. My source, again speaking on the condition of anonymity states that nearly $455,000 went for expenses. Specifically: *$38,000 went for salaries, $4,700 went for employee medical insurance and $15,000 went for uniforms. The remaining amount of approximately $645,000 went to specific assistance.
It is no secret that the Salvation Army does have a pretty good track record when it comes to response and assistance during times of disasters, as well as the charitable work they perform on a daily basis. And historically speaking, they have been known for taking the “long term” approach in regards to spending donated relief dollars.
Money just sitting in a bank when there are still people in recovery mode three years after the event. I believe the Salvation Army needs to re-evaluate what their intentions are with that money, and expedite getting it into the hands of the people it was meant for.
*Amounts are approximations.