On May 23, 2011, the people of Joplin awoke to find their homes and schools leveled, as well as their community and its residents in shambles. As a result of one of the deadliest tornadoes in U.S. history, 8,000 homes and businesses were destroyed, damages totaled more than $1 million and as of Sept. 14, the death toll stood at 162 lives lost.

It has been almost five months since the storm and residents continue to clean up what the storm left behind. In need of volunteers, the people of Joplin require help in rebuilding homes, schools and businesses. In an effort to help our neighbors to the north, three University of Arkansas groups are traveling to Joplin on Oct. 22 to aid in the relief effort – the Arkansas Alumni Association, Associated Student Government and the Division of Advancement.

This will be the second “Helpin’ Like a Hog” event for the Association. “We sent out a survey about a month ago and received feedback from our alumni, saying that they could use our help,” said Heath Bowman, assistant director of the out-of-state territories. Not only will the Association help the city’s residents, but the “Helpin’ Like a Hog” program will aid university alumni who live in Joplin.

Volunteers consisting of alumni, friends and family are encouraged to take part in “Helpin’ Like a Hog.” Those who are 18 years of age or older will help assist with debris removal while volunteers under the age of 13, or who are not capable of removing debris, will help sort and organize materials at disaster relief warehouses.

In coordination with AmeriCorps Disaster Relief, members of ASG are sponsoring a Joplin Relief Volunteer Trip. Viewing this as an opportunity for students to give back and help those in need, ASG is inviting interested students who would like to participate to volunteer in helping the people of Joplin rebuild their community.

Along with the Arkansas Alumni Association and ASG, the Division of Advancement and the United Way are asking the question, “What better purpose could you serve?” Asking people to commit one day to this project, the staff in the Division of Advancement is looking to help Joplin residents rebuild their homes, stock food banks, organize warehouses and aid in cleaning up public spaces.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring necessary tools and are asked to drive to and from Joplin in personal vehicles. Based on skill sets and project needs, work teams will receive direction from the United Way’s project managers before going to the work sites.

The University of Arkansas understands the needs of those not only in the Northwest Arkansas community, but in other communities as well. This is an opportunity for students, staff, friends and family to come together and make a difference in the lives of others.

Those who are interested in volunteering with the Arkansas Alumni Association must register online by midnight on Sunday, Oct. 16.

Students who would like to participate in the Joplin Relief Volunteer Trip with Associated Student Government should complete an ASG application and Joplin volunteer waiver and return it to the Office of Student Activities by noon on Friday, Oct. 14. Students may also contact ASG director of service outreach, Laura Weiderhaft via e-mail at lweiderh@uark.edu for more information.

Staff members who wish to volunteer with the Division of Advancement may contact Ashlie Hilbun via e-mail at ahilbun@uark.edu or by phone at 479-301-4346 for more information.