"It is pretty amazing to be able to help someone get into their house that fast," said Nora Young, who owns the local business with her husband, Tom. "It is also rewarding to help someone build back."
The devastation that occurred in Joplin hit close to home for Tom and Nora. Their original Laminated Panel Systems business was destroyed when a tornado tore through Pierce City in 2003.
"We started there in 1998," said Nora. "After the tornado hit, we were focused on finding a place to re-open and set back up. We know what it is like to have to dig out of the wreckage, build back and start fresh."
After operating in Monett for a few years, the couple opened their business in Cassville six years ago. Last year, when the tornado hit Joplin, like most southwest Missourians Tom and Nora wondered how they could help.
"That's where Ben Tarpley came in," said Nora. "He has formed a non-profit agency, and we partnered with him."
Tarpley's Hammers and Hearts organization coordinates rebuilding projects for Joplin residents who received little or no FEMA assistance. These residents use their own funds to purchase materials, and Tarpley finds volunteers to do the work eliminating or minimizing the cost of installation.
Recently, around 90 volunteers from Chico University in California visited Joplin to help with the rebuilding process. Tom, along with Laminated Panel Systems plant manager Brad Shoer volunteered to supervise the installation of Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIP) energy efficient panels for three homes.
"We did two homes from the ground up and the other was an extreme remodel," said Shoer. "We mentored the volunteers to help them assemble the SIPs, which are smaller pre-fabricated panels that fit together like a puzzle. They are very volunteer friendly."
Although all of the students from Chico University completed a certification class before beginning work in the homes, their experience ranged from classroom education to hands-on engineering projects.
"I was there for two 10-hour days, but the students worked closer to a week," said Shoer. "Tom was there with them every day. He also did a lot of work before to prepare the site for them."
"We had the foundation work done and materials on site," said Nora. "The objective was for building to start when the volunteers' feet hit the ground. We bought all of our materials in Cassville and hauled them to Joplin. It was important for us to buy locally to help our economy also."
The college students arrived on March 15 and began working the following day. Within two days, the volunteers had installed the panels and roofed the two homes.
"Their last work day was March 22," said Shoer. "At that time, the homes were at the sheet rock stage. That means all the exterior work was done, the electric and plumbing was installed and the sheet rock was in place."
Tarpley will coordinate another group of volunteers to finish the homes.
"It is neat to be a part of a build that will provide these residents with stronger, more energy efficient homes than they have ever had before," said Shoer. "We were even able to help install a safe room in the basement of one of the homes.
"It was very rewarding, and it turned out to be a lot of fun," added Shoer.
In addition to volunteer labor, Laminated Panel Systems donated cranes, dump trucks and other equipment that was used for the rebuilding project.