COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Flanked by representatives from Missouri pro sports teams prior to the Kansas-Missouri basketball game, Governor Jay Nixon launched an effort to build 35 houses in tornado-devastated Joplin.

Nixon, who’s getting athletic organizations to partner with Habitat for Humanity, launched the Joplin Habitat Challenge Saturday night. Among the sports luminaries were Blues Hall of Famer Bernie Federko, Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel and former Cardinals pitcher Andy Benes.

Nixon said the state will provide a $3.6 million Community Development Block Grant. The funds will be used for purchasing land and materials, as well as hiring construction leaders and a volunteer coordinator.

The public can visit  to volunteer with a specific organization in Joplin or to donate to the cause.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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