Quincy volunteer shares experience of Joplin's Extreme Makeover

Ellen Mickels was a volunteer for Joplin's Extreme Makeover. / Ellen Mickels

Joplin residents are still recovering from the devastation of an F5 tornado that ripped through the city on May 22, 2011.

Since then, people from across the nation have come together in large groups to rebuild the Missouri town. Last week, a handful of families were fortunate enough to receive the gift of an extreme makeover.

For some the losses are too great to ever be replaced. We met with one of our local volunteers took part in that effort to restore homes and hope for many of these families.

"There were more than 8,000 homes destroyed in the tornado in May and over 160 lives were taken," said Ellen Michaels.

Last week, more than ten thousand volunteers converged in Joplin for ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. For the first time in the show's history, the goal was to build not one, but seven homes in seven days. Taking part in the massive project were hundreds of Starbucks volunteers from across the country, including Mickels, a store manager in Quincy.

"We worked on several houses where some single parents had lost kids, and there was a volunteer fireman who didn't even know if his family members were ok and still had to do his duty, and after a couple hours, found out his house had been leveled and that the only thing standing was the closet that his wife and kids were in," said Mickels.

Thankfully, his family survived.

The makeover centered around a location just blocks away from the city's hospital heavily destroyed in the tornado.

"When we got there, the foundations and concrete was already built. So we got to go in and take a lot of furniture. I got to frame photos of the families and load all the frames with that, so that was pretty impactful," said Mickels.

"We all worked in 12-hour shifts, they were working 24/7 so they could get everything complete. And we served coffee of course to keep everybody caffeinated.There were people who'd lost their homes that were volunteers building someone else's home," said Mickels.

Mickels says one of the most comforting aspects of the makeover process was seeing crews build a storm shelter in every home, tested to withstand any these families a safe place to go.

"It was nice to see green on the trees. It gives the community a sense that things are turning around, things are coming back alive.That's what the whole extreme thing was all about, it was to give the city hope and it worked," said Mickels.

All seven families were sent to Disney for the week as Extreme Makeover crews built their new homes. The "move the bus" reveals will take place next week on Good Morning America. The show's Joplin edition is scheduled to air on ABC in January.