Nixon’s Joplin Challenge teams up with Missouri sports organizations

Seven organizations are sponsoring seven neighborhoods.

With an hour to go before tipoff of the Border Showdown between Missouri and Kansas on Saturday night at Mizzou Arena, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced the 2012 Governor’s Joplin Habitat Challenge.

The initiative partners with the Joplin area Habitat for Humanity and the state’s seven major athletic organizations to build 35 homes this summer in Joplin, Mo., where more than 7,700 houses were damaged or destroyed in the 6-mile-long destruction from an EF-5 tornado on May 22.

“At that time the governor challenged all of us in the state of Missouri to work together to rebuild, and at the same time that he said that, he did indicate that it was not going to be an overnight project,” Athletics Director Mike Alden said. “This is going to take time to be able to do that. Certainly it’s exciting for me and those of us up here from around the state of Missouri to be partnering with our governor as he challenges us.”

Representatives of Missouri’s professional sports teams stood behind Nixon during his announcement, including Andy Benes, a former right-hander for the St. Louis Cardinals; Mike McCarthy, CEO of the St. Louis Blues; Matt Cassel, the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback; St. Louis Rams wide receiver Danario Alexander, a Missouri alumnus; Aaron Crow, also an MU alumnus currently pitching for the Kansas City Royals; and Patrick Warren, president of NASCAR’s Kansas Speedway.

As part of the Challenge, organizations will sponsor seven neighborhoods. Nixon said team representatives will give support by visibility and volunteer assistance in construction on several occasions.

The state will provide a $3.6 million Community Development Block Grant in purchasing land, materials and the hiring of construction leaders and a volunteer coordinator. Nixon added that the mortgages for the homes will be affordable and add to an ongoing revenue stream for Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity to expand the number of homes it can build in years to come.

“The need for quality, affordable housing has never been greater in Joplin,” said Scott Clayton, executive director of Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity, in a news release. “With the resources and commitment from Gov. Nixon and Missouri’s athletic organizations, we have the opportunity to make a lasting and life-changing difference for 35 families in our community this year, and even more in years to come.”

Nixon said the state’s sports organizations have been there “from the very beginning” contributing to Joplin relief.

On the Wednesday following the twister, the Blues held a food drive outside the Scottrade Center for three hours. The Cardinals and Royals collaborated in the “Teams Unite for Joplin” fundraising events during the teams’ I-70 Series at Busch Stadium in June. The Rams and Chiefs hosted a similar cause at the Governor’s Cup preseason game in August.

The Missouri’s men’s basketball team’s first game this season was a charity game called the “One State, One Spirit Classic” against Missouri Southern State on the campus in Joplin.

“Being a sports fan in Missouri, we’re really, really blessed,” Nixon said.

The next step in the Challenge encourages those fans to log onto to sign up with a team of their choice to volunteer alongside it and offer additional support to the program.

“This is a big project and it’s going to require everyone’s work,” Nixon said. “We need to have that second effort that these athletes and these teams show every single day competing in Joplin.”

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