SPRINGFIELD, Mo- Once the storm calmed, volunteers from across the country flocked to southwest Missouri to help those who lost everything. Strangers became friends while putting the pieces to the community back together. 

For the next three years, more than 180,000 volunteers spent over one point five million hours on the ground helping clean up from the deadly storm. One million, five hundred and forty two thousand, three hundred and fifty three hours were spent lending a hand, that equals more than 176 years of service in Joplin.

Volunteers came from all walks of life both young and old and every day people including one man who put his love for music to the side to help out when his hometown needed it the most.

“The only thing you could hear after it happened were sirens and people screaming,” says volunteer Jared Harder.

That’s when Jared Harder’s home town looked more like a war zone instead of southwest Missouri. It’s been five years but he remembers the day his community changed forever.

“It was just piles of rubble. I mean, like I said, didn’t know what street you were on, didn’t recognize anything,” says Harder. 

Days later, “I did it everyday for about three months,” the aspiring musician went from picking a guitar to picking up the pieces to the town he calls home.

“I don’t think I thought about music at all during that three months and I was okay with that. It didn’t matter to me. There was one thing that did matter and it was about bringing our community back together.”

In the following weeks, months and even years after the EF-5 tornado, thousands of volunteers became Joplin locals instead of strangers.

“On Tuesday is when we started disaster relief so it was within 48 hours after the storm hit that we were out involved in doing stuff,”

When a disaster strikes, communities rely on organizations like Convoy of Hope to help out. But Jeff Nene says this one hit too close to home.

“You go down there to respond and all of a sudden, the stores that you shopped in, the restaurants that you went to, they are gone,” says Jeff Nene

Overall, Convoy of Hope built 13 homes, renovated 19, and had to remove 75 foundations from homes blown away.

“The city lost so many of their homes, so much of their infrastructure, so many businesses. Its like, where do you start?” says Nene.

Jared says, during the immediate clean up, having conversations is just as important as doing the heavy lifting.

“So many people look at disaster as get in, get out, do as much of it as you can, be effective but I think its more than that, I think its also about engaging and interacting with those people that have been through that,” says Harder.

Through Convoy Of Hope, almost four thousand volunteers  spent nearly twenty thousand hours on the grounds lending a hand.

“They donated so much in the way of food and supplies,” says Nene.

And gave away 1.9 million dollars worth of food and other necessities.

“We started to provide food and water for some of the first responders, fire fighters, police, things like that. That was our first step which was immediately followed by trying to provide those same materials for home owners.”

Five years ago, Cunningham Park sat in the pathway of the destructive tornado that took folks’ lives, wiped out their homes and businesses and destroyed part of Joplin. Today, they’ve built a memorial so that people will never forget what happened on May 22.

Jared says many people including himself have a hard time talking about that day.

“I just think, the things that were seen, you know, I think nothing prepares you for that. I remember being a changed person, it really did change my life,” says Harder.

One thing easily spoken is the appreciation for the volunteers who joined together.

“Literally, being the hands and feet of Jesus to these communities.”

Because on May 22, 2011, helping hands from around the world descended on southwest Missouri.

“I don’t think a community is ever the same. I think they achieve what we call a new normal,” says Nene.

And that day taught Jared lessons he will hold onto for the rest of his life.

“You learn a lot about priorities and what’s really important and what really matters and what doesn’t,” says Harder.