Joplin helping Alabama; Alabama helping Joplin

Weeks before a tornado tore through Joplin, Missouri, killing more than 100 people, the people of Joplin were working to help storm survivors in Alabama.

In fact, a benefit was underway in Joplin Sunday evening when the tornado struck.

"It went over the radio that the funnel clouds were spotted, and we needed to get to a safe place," said Melodie Maynard Schultz, who was donating her talents as a still photographer for the benefit.

Schultz was conducting photo shoots, and her customers were donating at least $50 apiece to tornado recovery in Tuscaloosa.

"I can't go to Alabama and help you guys out, so if I can send you a little bit of something to help, then it makes me feel good," Schultz said.

Her efforts were in conjunction with the "Joplin, Missouri Helping Tuscaloosa, Alabama" Facebook group.{} The group was established by Kevin Clements, a Tuscaloosa native who is currently living in Joplin and wanted to help people in his hometown.

Schultz said Clements' house was damaged in Sunday night's storm, but his family survived.

Despite the damage in Joplin, Schultz is still committed to helping people in Tuscaloosa recover.

"I mean, we were doing this initially to help you guys, and you guys still need the help," she said.

People in the disaster zones in Alabama said they were grateful for the group's help, and they pledged their support for Joplin as that community recovers.

"Tuscaloosa's heart is breaking for you, Joplin," said one Facebook commenter.{} "May God bless and heal you."

"Help is coming your way from Tuscaloosa, Alabama," said another.{} "One 18 wheeler full of portable showers and emergency equipment.{} The second 18 wheeler is loaded with hundreds of tarps, clean up supplies and tools.{} Hang in there."

The Facebook group "Toomers for Tuscaloosa" was also collecting donations for Joplin.{} The group started a few weeks ago as a show of solidarity and support for Tuscaloosa tornado survivors.{} While Tuscaloosa will not be forgotten, members want to make sure people in Joplin receive necessary assistance as well.

In the town of Concord in western Jefferson County, disaster relief volunteers had heavy hearts for the people now suffering in Joplin.

"My heart aches.{} It aches because I see the pictures and, you know, we've come so far here.{} I mean Concord has progressed so much," said Greg Meggs, a volunteer at a supply center at Earnest United Methodist Church.{} "We've got so many things extra here, we were just discussing maybe we could pack some of it up to get to Joplin, too."

Meggs is not just concerned for Joplin.{} He used to live there.{} He spent Monday checking in with friends to see how they are coping.

"If anybody from Joplin is listening, we love you," he said.{} "We're here, too -- anything we can do."

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