Community Building

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When times get tough for families and individuals in the Joplin area, it’s comforting to know that there are organizations and volunteers that are always available to help.

One example is the Building Bridges program, a partnership with the United Way of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas. The program aims to break the cycle of poverty by reducing the number of families and individuals who rely on government programs and charitable aid.

Building Bridges will sponsor up to 25 participants at a time who are ready to change their own lives. They learn how to find better ways to resolve conflict, live on a budget and build the skills needed for successful employment.

To make the program a success, the organization works with several area churches and organizations that provide a weekly meal, including Saint Paul’s Church, First Presbyterian Church, Freeman Health System, Mercy Health System, Commerce Bank, Southwest Missouri Bank, Rotary, Soroptimist International of Joplin and Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity.

Building Bridges also partners with Arvest, Freeman Health System, Missouri Career Center, College Heights Christian Church, Missouri Southern State University and Motive Matters to provide programming to participating families. Kansas City University-Joplin medical students help provide child care to families.

In the last five years, Building Bridges families have made notable progress in areas such as:

  • Debt relief: Several families have paid down their debts, including one that had more than $150,000 in personal debt.
  • Health: Participants are enjoying bike rides, runs and other forms of exercise.
  • Education: Several participants have returned to school, earning certificates, bachelor’s degrees and master’s degrees.
  • Giving back: Families have participated in the United Way’s Day of Action, Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity and the Turkey Trot.

Another notable nonprofit organization is The Alliance of SWMO, which aims to make the area the safest place for children to thrive.

Established in 1998, The Alliance is one of 20 Caring Communities in the state of Missouri established by the Family and Community Trust (FACT). The organization works to build safer and healthier communities by offering education and resources for children and their families. Much of the work supported by The Alliance is in service of prevention, safety and education.

The Alliance, which is headquartered in Joplin, identifies concerns, locates resources and facilitates change through community collaborations, education and prevention work in Jasper, Newton, Barton and McDonald Counties.

Programs run by The Alliance include Parenting Classes, Safe Kids, Educare, Project CARE and DYS Youth Mentoring. These programs exist to prevent childhood death and injury by helping children and families in making safer choices and creating safer environments.

The Alliance also supports four active community coalitions, which are charged with planning outreach and addressing gaps in the areas of youth substance use, health and safety: Joplin Area Safe Teens Coalition, Carthage Caring Community Coalition, Neosho Community Coalition and McDonald County Coalition.

Recent community endeavors involving The Alliance:

  • Hosting the Suicide Prevention Town Hall in March 2018 after the community experienced nine youth deaths by suicide in a 12-month period. Approximately 200 people attended. The event created awareness and offered a platform for further conversation and education.
  • Hosting the Cyber Safety Town Hall in February 2019. Approximately 100 people attended. The event offered resources for parents and caregivers.
  • Distributing “bibliotherapy library” to counselors at Joplin Schools, which features a specific set of books to help counselors facilitate necessary conversations with children in crisis affected by a variety of difficult issues including abuse, suicide, divorce, etc.
  • Providing 260 car seats in 2018 to families unable to afford them.
  • Serving 2,585 youths through presentations on distracted driving under the influence since 2018.
  • Distributing more than 10,800 drug disposal bags since 2017.