Anyone who has seen the images of devastation from Joplin, Mo., cannot help but be affected by the magnitude of the disaster caused by Sunday’s tornado. For one Washington and Lee alumnus, Brent Beshore, of the Class of 2005, the scenes are personal. Joplin is Brent’s hometown. It’s where he was born and raised, and eight generations of his family have lived there.
Although he now lives in Columbia, Mo., about 250 miles northeast of Joplin, Brent had friends among the 124 residents who were killed and neighbors among the hundreds who lost their homes when the monster tornado ripped through the city.
Last November, Youngentrepreneur magazine referred to Brent as “a 27-year-old serial entrepreneur” for his innovative work in new media. So it’s hardly a surprise that Brent has been using his expertise in social media and his membership on the board of the Heart of Missouri United Way to help his hometown recover. He created a Facebook page, Joplin, MO Tornado Recovery, which had 147,000 “likes” by last night. The page provides valuable information of all kinds, including how to donate to the United Way. Brent also took to his Twitter account with updates on the fund-raising efforts. At one point Tuesday, Brent’s Twitter account was trending in the Kansas City area, indicating how many people were following and re-purposing his Tweets about the situation.
Brent explains, “We set up a Joplin Tornado Relief Fund through the United Way, which agreed to 100% of funds going directly to Joplin with zero overhead. By midday Tuesday, we had raised about $115,000 in the last 40 hours through the Facebook page and the donation information. We’re launching a telethon on Thursday night.”
In a story on KOMU-com, Brent’s role in the work was cited, and he made this observation about the disaster: “I have images in my head of what those places used to look like when I was a kid. Looking at the images, I can picture myself there, and it doesn’t look anything like what I have in my head.”
If you want to help, you can pledge to the Heart of Missouri United Way for Joplin Tornado Relief Fund by calling (573)443-4523, by going online to http://uwheartmo.org/, or by texting JOPLIN to 864833 to make a $10 donation.