ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) – Former Missouri Senator John Danforth is reaching out to the victims of the Joplin tornado, paying back an old favor passed down through his family.
Danforth and Sen. Roy Blunt have started Joplin Tomorrow, a privately administered economic assistance fund to help rebuild the devastated small business community of Joplin.
Danforth’s own grandfather, William Danforth, had his business damaged by a natural disaster, but was able to rebuild thanks to a loan. That business became pet food giant Ralston Purina, a staple of St. Louis business.
Danforth donated the final $500,000 remaining in the Danforth Foundation, a long-time player in St. Louis philanthropy, to Joplin Tomorrow. The new fund aims to raise $10 million for Joplin, and Danforth says the people of Joplin have already raised $600,000 to add to his foundation’s contribution.
“I’m just proud of these people, proud to be in the same state as them,” Danforth said. “They really are driven to have a future for themselves, and I think if people want to do that for themselves, that we should try to help. And that’s all I’m trying to do.”
Joplin Tomorrow will start or expand low- and zero-interest loans for small businesses. Danforth said that while the Small Business Administration can help many businesses, it has limitations.
“The Small Business Administration doesn’t provide working capital, it doesn’t provide for any businesses that are growing, it doesn’t bring in any new businesses,” Danforth said.
Danforth said that for all that the government provides, the people of Joplin want to control their own rebuilding.
“The people I met with say…they want a hand in their own future,” Danforth said.
“In the wake of a disaster there have been wonderful stories of communities that have taken the opportunity to build an even better future for themselves, and that’s what they want to do in Joplin.”
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