One Year After the Storms 

A look back at the devastating tornados of May 22, 2011 and Cargill’s response 

By Bridget Williams May 21, 2012

 May 22, 2011 was a day that many people in the Midwestern and Southern U.S. will remember for a long time. Weather conditions indicated only a moderate risk of severe weather, but that moderate risk turned into complete destruction in many areas, including Joplin, Mo., and Minneapolis.

Cargill has a history of providing financial assistance around natural disasters. However, when disasters strike in the backyards of our facilities, our employees take a personal interest in providing assistance to the victims of these events.

Working to restore normalcy in Joplin

The Joplin tornado was the deadliest single U.S. tornado since 1950, killing 161 people.  More than 8,000 homes and 500 commercial properties were damaged or destroyed.

The days and weeks immediately after the tornado were a crucial time to help the victims of the storm.  Cargill employees from three cities near Joplin teamed up with Walmart to provide meals to victims, rescue workers and volunteers.  Cargill Meat Solutions donated hamburgers and hotdogs to feed everyone.

In addition to partnering with Walmart, volunteers worked with local churches and other charitable organizations to provide assistance.  Cargill employees and businesses donated more than $18,000.

“Pulling together volunteers from three different cities and five business units really allowed us to make a difference,” said Pete Elsham, grain merchant with Horizon Milling in Kansas City.  “It was a real opportunity for us to make an impact on the people of Joplin and to show our commitment to our customers and their employees.”

Helping our community partners in Minneapolis

The tornado that hit Minneapolis the same afternoon affected many of Cargill’s community partners that work with its headquarters location.  Although the storm that hit Minneapolis was not as devastating as the one that hit Joplin, it affected an area that already had a high level of poverty and unemployment.

Some Cargill employees had storm damage on their properties and witnessed Cargill’s commitment to the community first-hand.  Ben Abrahamson, multimedia producer at Cargill, had damage to his garage and roof.  The houses and schools in his neighborhood also sustained significant damage.

“It was really cool to see Cargill come out and help with the clean-up efforts in Minneapolis,” said Abrahamson.  “Volunteers were down the street from my house, helping to repair a school, and groups like Habitat for Humanity, which Cargill works with, assisted my neighbors who didn’t have insurance, with roof repairs.”

Rebuilding efforts continue one year later in Joplin

One year later, Cargill is still providing support to the tornado-stricken communities.  While the focus has moved away from the individual victims, the company is now addressing the environmental needs in these areas.

On May 5th, volunteers from Cargill locations in Springdale, Ark., Kansas City, and Wichita, Kan., participated in a tree planting events at two parks in Joplin.  Cargill volunteers planted more than 50 trees.  Some were purchased through donations by Cargill, and an additional 150 trees were donated by Living Lands and Waters, an environmental conservation partner of the company.

One of the volunteers met a young woman who had worked at a McDonald’s near the park where they were planting trees.  She explained how she had survived the storm, and how she had lost some close friends during the tornado.  Seeing that the volunteers were working to restore the park to its original state, she decided to name a few of the trees after her friends.

“Hearing stories of how people survived such a destructive event and hear them tell of those who were lost really affects volunteers who are helping to rebuild,” said Elsham.  “I really hope that the work and contributions help these people return to normalcy.”

Restoring trees in Minneapolis

The Minneapolis Park Board teamed up with Cargill, along with Best Buy, Target and Xcel Energy, to plant 3,100 trees in the hardest hit areas of Minneapolis during the week of May 15-19. Cargill donated $10,000 to this effort, along with a large number of volunteers.

“Working with our community partners to help plant trees in areas of Minneapolis allows us to demonstrate not only our commitment to the community, but also to the environment,” said Tomme Beevas, community involvement director at Cargill.  “We are extremely proud of our employee volunteers, not only in Joplin and Minneapolis, but all over the world.”