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Fri, July 19

Prescott Valley couple heads to Joplin, Mo., to help tornado victims
Master's Touch tour company organizes effort

Ernie Johnson, a Master’s Touch driver, tosses a case of bath tissue to Jerry Schultz as volunteers loaded an 18-wheeler with supplies for victims of tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri. The truck and volunteers left Prescott Valley on Sunday.<br>
TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz

Ernie Johnson, a Master’s Touch driver, tosses a case of bath tissue to Jerry Schultz as volunteers loaded an 18-wheeler with supplies for victims of tornadoes in Joplin, Missouri. The truck and volunteers left Prescott Valley on Sunday.<br> TribPhoto/Cheryl Hartz

Prescott Valley resident Jerry Schultz the other day got to thinking about how blessed he is. Then he asked himself if he shouldn't be doing more to help others.

When Schultz read an article in the Daily Courier about a local tour bus company preparing to send help to Joplin, Mo. tornado victims, he stopped wondering and started doing.

Schultz, who along with his wife Robbin, owns and runs the 50's Backseat Diner and Cordes Junction Motel and RV Park in Cordes Junction, contacted Warren Micale of Master's Touch, a Christian Charter service in Prescott Valley, and asked a few pertinent questions.

"I asked if this was staged and planned. Too many of these things are unorganized. But the Micales have been in touch with a Baptist church in Joplin, where volunteers will be staying, and they told me there will be an orientation. With that, I decided this is a worthwhile thing to do," Schultz said.

Once he and Robbin made the decision to go, Schultz and other volunteers put all their energy into making sure the 18-wheeler that also would be making the trip was filled to the brim with needed supplies. Schultz found that everyone he talked to was willing to give generously to help the tornado-ravaged community of Joplin.

One local man handed him $100. Another emptied his billfold. A couple that runs a local RV park gave batteries, flashlights and diapers. Mayer Fire Dept. donated infant car seats. Affinity RV in Prescott gave cases of water. The donations kept coming in.

"The Micales explained to me that there is no bottled water for purchase in the Joplin area, because everyone has bought what was available. It's stuff like that. They need baby diapers, foot powders, everything you have in your house - they don't have it," Schultz said.

The Micales parked the 18-wheeler, donated for use by Bennett Oil of Prescott and Rush/Peterbilt of Phoenix, on Friday at the Walmart off Iron Springs Road in Prescott, and on Saturday, at Walmart across from the Gateway Mall. People brought their donations while volunteers, including Schultz, loaded the truck.

The result was a whopping $18,000 in money and goods for the tornado ravaged people of Joplin, and people were still donating on Tuesday, said Debby Micale of Master's Touch.

"This is a very generous area, people are very giving and helpful here. They donated way more than we thought," she said.

Master's Touch is providing transportation for volunteers, who will donate $100 to help cover the cost of fuel. The group left Prescott Valley on Sunday afternoon in a 16-passenger bus. Warren Micale and a friend drove his pickup with a trailer filled with tools. The volunteers arrived Monday in Joplin, and on Tuesday, began to unload the truck. They then attended orientation and received work assignments.

Schultz said Robbin will work with a group helping to sift through rubble to find personal belongings, and he will be with a group cutting trees and removing debris. Their staff will run the businesses at home while the couple is gone.

Schultz said he wasn't sure what to expect, and he has had his own trepidations about going to the devastated city.

"How do you deal with this type of tragedy?" he said. "What do you say to them?"

He will no doubt see an astonishing scene of devastation. Former Prescott Valley Tribune editor Jerry Herrmann, now a staff writer for the Miami News Record in Miami, Okla., about 20 miles from Joplin, said the tornado cut a swath of destruction a half mile wide and 12 miles long.

"Our reporters who have been up there say pictures don't do the damage justice," Herrmann said. "The damage is unimaginable. One of our reporters is the wife of the Miami Walmart store manager. They went up to Joplin last Sunday night after the tornado struck and helped distribute food and supplies from the wrecked Joplin Walmart store on 20th Street. They worked all night. She said it was all surreal."

Schultz once lived in Missouri and has witnessed a tornado at close quarters, so he knows he could be going into harm's way. But his desire to do more to help overcame his fears, and on Sunday, Jerry and Robbin were on the bus headed to Joplin, eager to do whatever they can to help.

Daily Courier Managing Editor Karen Despain contributed to this story.

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