Taking Action for Jefferson City Tornado Victims

What would you do if your community were hit by a tornado, leaving a path of destruction 3 miles long and 1 mile wide? Would you know how to help?

Sales Consultant and Social Media Maverick Nathan Hays had never been through anything like the EF-3 tornado that struck his community of Jefferson City, Mo., on May 23. He wasn’t sure where to start, but he knew that help was needed and he had an idea for how he could provide it.

He got started simply and immediately with what he had. A big strength of Hays’ in his job selling cars is his ability to make connections with people and form relationships. These skills have also contributed to the success he’s seen with his social media efforts.

“I thought, hey, I know a lot of people – maybe I can raise some money,” Hays says. “Maybe my connections could help me find people who needed help, and what they needed.”

Uber Rides, Cleaning Supplies, and Everything in Between

Using Facebook Groups, Hays started a fundraising campaign called Power JCMO with a goal of $15,000. It didn’t take long for donations to start pouring in, as well as suggestions and requests for funds.

“The goal was to find needs that weren’t being met by other groups, which can sometimes take a while, and then fill in those gaps,” he says. “We haven’t had a tornado since the 1920s. So nobody had really been through it before.”

With 300 homes and 20 businesses destroyed, a lot of help was needed. Based on feedback, Hays divided the campaign into five phases:

$1,000 goal for wipes, cleaning supplies, hygiene needs, and gloves;

$2,000 for ride-share gift cards for those without transportation (especially since Jefferson City has a large number of commuters);

$5,000 for fans, surge protectors, phone chargers, battery power packs, extension cords, refrigerators, vacuums, etc.;

$3,000 for long-term storage, moving assistance, and special requests;

and $4,000 for filling in the gaps and donations to other agencies locally.

Hays researches every individual or group receiving money. He has also kept a log of money donated as well as where the money has gone, all of which he makes available on the group’s page.

It took less than two weeks for Hays to reach his Facebook goal (but there is still a need, so the campaign is still running), and he has raised even more money offline.

In addition to bringing in much-needed funds, Power JCMO on Facebook has helped link people up with additional services they might need, like housing- or business-specific relief groups, lawyers, etc. It has also helped Hays find assistance with purchasing and delivering goods and services to those in need.

Not all of the efforts are organized online though. One of Hays’ favorite offline donations came (as a total surprise) when his seventh-grade science teacher showed up at Jefferson City AutoPlex.

“She gave me a big hug and told me my mom raised me right, and that I’ve come a long way since being class clown. [Laughs] It made my day,” he says. “But really, I’m still probably the class clown!”

Stronger Together

Hays got into a friendly “boys versus girls” competition with another Jefferson Citian, Annie Schulte, to see who could raise the most money. Her Facebook Group, Tornado Relief in Jefferson City, did hit the $10,000 mark first, Hays says. Both campaigns are still active.

More than 285 people have made donations on Hays’ page alone to help tornado victims in Jefferson City. The city is working to come up with ways to help local businesses recover, including a dealership that had two stores destroyed by the storm. Jefferson City AutoPlex also made donations of water and money to help with various relief efforts.

The tornado didn’t bring out the best in everybody, however. Three looters from the Kansas City area had so far been arrested since the publishing of this blog.

Hays doesn’t pay them much mind. The outpouring of support and positivity has far outweighed the bad. Plus, he’s so close to reaching his overall fundraising goal of $25,000.

Shortly after reaching the initial goal of $15,000, Hays posted this, showing how near and far help is coming from:

“Thanks for everyone who’s sharing these posts and updates. ONE PERSON shared this post Tuesday and we received over $1,000 in donations from people randomly spread out all over the USA.”

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