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Chiefs players spend time off aiding in Joplin home building efforts

Posted Jun 15, 2012

Dontari Poe: “Once I heard about the tornado and how it affected Joplin, there wasn’t any question that I was going to come down here and help.”

Dontari Poe anchored the base of a wall frame as members of the Chiefs business staff gathered to help rise the north side of a house on Kentucky Street.

Next door, Chiefs quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn manned a Skillsaw and cut plywood sheeting to size. The sawdust filled Jean Fanor’s beard as he waited to carry the plywood for installation. Brady Quinn, whose father was a homebuilder, was waiting with nails and a hammer.

This was the scene at five homes spanning across four city blocks in Joplin, Mo. Friday afternoon.

Chiefs rookies had the day off. Veterans had been dismissed for the offseason. Regardless, two dozen players joined more than 100 Chiefs staffers to fill three buses for a day of construction in the heart of Joplin’s tornado devastation zone.

“I think this was our first win of the season,” Quinn said afterward. “Going here after finishing up our offseason program is a good win for the organization and a good win for the team.”

Quinn was playing for Denver when the Chiefs organization made its first visit to Joplin last summer. Poe was getting ready for his junior season at Memphis. Fanor was readying for his senior campaign at Bethune-Cookman.

Taking time to volunteer in Joplin was especially meaningful for Fanor, who was born in Haiti and lost his cousin when a 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated the Caribbean island in 2010. Fanor was in the country just two weeks before the catastrophic quake killed an estimated 316,000 people.

“It struck close to home for me,” Fanor remembered. “Two weeks earlier and that could’ve been me, and my mom.  Instead, it was my family.”

In Joplin, an EF-5 tornado affected 7,571 households and destroyed 4,024 residences on May 22, 2011. The twister also claimed 161 lives and injured hundreds of others to rank as the United States’ deadliest single tornado since modern-day recordkeeping began in 1950.

Friday’s trip was the first time many of the players had been to Joplin. Nearly the entire rookie class volunteered for the build without prior knowledge of exactly what they’d find.

“I tried to do my best to explain everything,” said rookie Tysyn Hartman, a native of nearby Wichita, Ks. “I was in Manhattan (Ks.) when the tornado hit, but obviously saw all of the news coverage. Basically there was nothing out here. You turn around 360-degrees and in every angle its destruction and debris.

“I tell them all of that, but then we get here and there are new houses being built. It just goes to show you how the community has responded in their commitment to rebuilding and getting their lives back together.”

Poe joined the traveling party despite not yet having a rookie contract in place. Much like his approach to the team’s offseason program, Poe made it a point to separate contract negotiations from team commitments.  

“Once I heard about the tornado and how it affected Joplin, there wasn’t any question that I was going to come down here and help,” Poe said after removing a hard hat and work gloves to sign autographs and talk with Joplin residents.

This is the second consecutive year the team’s number one pick has volunteered in Joplin before agreeing to a rookie deal.

Jonathan Baldwin aided in the removal of storm debris last June before meeting many of his teammates. Because of the NFL Lockout, Baldwin volunteered in Joplin before he’d even stepped foot on the Chiefs practice field.

“We haven’t told them what they should do, they have just shown up,” GM Scott Pioli said. “The encouraging thing is that they are mature enough, caring enough and smart enough that they know the right thing to do. I think it’s a good sign when you see young players, two guys just out of college, that know what the right thing is. I think it shows us that we have a little less teaching to do in terms of helping them mature.”

“There is a certain kind of standard that I have to adhere to now as a professional athlete, so I tried to get out here and help as much as I could,” Poe added.

“It feels good knowing that I could come out here and help. As I walk around people are saying nice things and I appreciate it. It feels good to be appreciated. Having the opportunity to come out here is a blessing in itself.

After all the work was done, the framing of five homes was completed and two additional properties were landscaped.

Friday’s visit was part of the Governor’s Joplin-Habitat Challenge – a continuation of the exceptional response to Joplin’s recovery already demonstrated by the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals; St. Louis Rams, Cardinals and Blues; Mizzou Athletics; and NASCAR, during 2011.

Over the course of April-October 2012, players, coaches, alumni, broadcasters and front office staff from each organization will visit Joplin and aid in construction efforts alongside contractors of Habitat for Humanity. A total of 35 new homes will be built once the Governor’s Challenge is complete.

For more information on the Governor’s Joplin-Habitat Challenge, visit joplinchallenge.mo.gov.

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