Local nurse takes pride in making a difference

JOPLIN, Mo. — April Willis was recognized for her genuine kindness when she received a special award. This local nurse takes pride in making a difference, inside and outside of the hospital.

“I’ve always been that nurse that wants to make sure that I make a difference in the lives of the people I take care of. I want to feel like a friend to those people. I don’t want to just look like I’m swiping in for a paycheck,” said April Willis, RN, Labor & Delivery, Freeman Health System.

April Willis is a labor and delivery nurse at “Freeman Health System.”

It was just another night in the fall of 2022 for April, selflessly taking care of moms and babies.

But one patient really took April’s kindness to heart.

That’s when the patient nominated her for a DAISY award.

“This just happened to be a night I remember. This patient, she was super kind. She came in and she was very, very sick. She was very scared and I just, I’m so honored that she understood that I was trying to make things that were a very scary situation, very comfortable for her and her family. And it means so much to me that a patient can actually recognize that when they were so sick and having so many health problems at the time,” said Willis.

Dozens for nurses get nominated each month for the daisy award as a way to recognize their genuine compassion and professionalism.

“Kindness goes a long way. And I think with this week, the tragedies that we’ve seen in the NFL, we’ve learned how people can come together and that love honestly does make the world a better place. And so, I think it does help. Just to make sure that you’re not just here, putting on a fake smile and a fake persona to be that nurse, but that you are genuinely like that in everyday life, too,” said Willis.

And for April, her patients’ hand-written letter was more than a nomination.

“I think stopping, taking a moment and writing something out to let others know that, ‘you guys are making a difference too’,” said Willis.

Annual Christmas Bird Count Gathering

JOPLIN, Mo. — There were plenty of smiles, today, at “Wildcat Glades”.

That’s because today was their annual Christmas bird count gathering.

Partnering with the “National Audubon Society”, the event takes place once a year.

It gives kids and families the opportunity to see and count different types of birds in their natural habitats.

Naturalist Kensi Tillman says this is a gateway to get kids outside to explore and identify with nature.

“Well this morning, we did a kid’s Christmas Bird count, which is as simple as it sounds, we counted birds. It’s a long-standing citizen science project with the Audubon Society. And so we come out here and we just count the birds that we see and then that information can be submitted for science,” said Kensi Tillman, Naturalist.

Tillman says the Audubon Society submits the bird information collected today, which is then used for tracking bird populations across the nation.

Annual "Snowflake Crop" hosted by "Creative Memories Independent"

JOPLIN, Mo. — Meanwhile, others in Joplin did a little scrapbookin’ today.

The annual “Snowflake Crop” event was hosted by members of the “Creative Memories Independent” group.

Attendees dressed in pajamas for the monthly session, to catch up with one another and create scrapbooks.

They also share new ideas and make new projects, all with a chance to win a grand prize.

Lori Layne is an advisor of “Creative Memories Independent”.

She says the group is a community and is very welcoming to one another.

“It is a community and it’s great because it’s something that everybody has in common. So these ladies have gotten to know each other, and they enjoy coming and catching up on each other’s lives and their families. So the great thing about our group is they’re so welcoming — so even somebody brand new wants to come and try it out. They’ll act like they’ve known you for years and you’ll have the best time, because you’ll just become part of their community,” said Lori Layne, Creative Memories Independent Advisor.

“Creative Memories Independent” has more events to come.

If you would like to learn about those events, you can visit a link here.

Creating a "Glass Cactus"

JOPLIN, Mo. — Some also gathered in Joplin, today, to learn a form of art using a unique material.

That gathering happened at ‘Spiva Center for the Arts’ inside the new ‘Harry M. Cornell Arts and Entertainment Complex’.

Attendees created a model glass cactus. Jane McCaulley of ‘Spiva Center for the Arts’ guided participants on how to work with the glass, utilizing certain tools.

She says the longevity of the glass sets this form of art apart from other methods.

“People don’t usually handle glass, only time you handle glass is when you drop it on the floor and have to clean it up probably. But this way, we teach you how to actually use the glass and create something out of it. It’s something that will last, not like making something out of paper, this will last a long time,” Jane McCaulley, Teacher.

In the coming months, McCaulley will teach more classes, including a lesson on weaving glass.

Also this summer, Spiva will host a three day glass camp, for kids ages 8 through 14.

79 nurses honored in Freeman Health System ceremony

JOPLIN, Mo. — Friday marked a very special milestone for several nurses at Freeman Health System.

Seventy-nine nurses were honored for their genuine compassion and professionalism. Every month, nominations from patients and their loved ones are sent in – to truly thank a nurse who went above and beyond.

Freeman Health System has been recognizing nurses this way since 2016. The hospital held a ceremony to showcase every nurse who was nominated and awarded during 2022.

“Of all the nominations that we had, it was more than all of the other years combined of nominations that we had. So, we put a lot of effort into marketing to let our patients know that Daisy was an option for them, and the nominations started rolling in,” said Jeanee Kennedy, Chief Nursing Officer.

“I’ve had the opportunity to probably interact with over five or 6,000 patients and family members going through one of the most difficult times of their lives. I never want to take that for granted and recognize that each interaction is very meaningful,” said Megan Spiering, nurse practitioner.

Each nurses’ hand-written nominations were read out loud.

Plans to demo old Jasper Co. courts building move forward

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. — County construction isn’t quite done yet.

Across the brand new parking lot, the now old courts building, which has stood there for 49 years. There are still a few things left to move over to the new facility.

Crews hope to start the demolition process on the old building next month. And, there are plans for the space after it’s gone — but those will have to wait a few weeks.

“Then there’ll be a couple maybe a month or two because it’s winter time. You know we can’t asphalt at that time but there’ll be areas to park for the public. It won’t be on the asphalt necessarily but it’ll be places to park nonetheless. And then once springtime comes, then they’ll finally complete the parking lot and then we’ll be done,” said Erik Theis, Jasper County Court Admin.

Voters approved funding for the project in 2019 — and construction on the new building started in December of 2020.

New Jasper Co. courts building is ready to open with state-of-the-art technology

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. — Three years and $35 million later – Jasper County now officially has a new courts building. This morning was a chance to show it off before operations kicked off, drawing a big crowd.

The new Jasper County Courts Building is ready for business.

“It is gorgeous. It’s spacious – it’s very organized. It seems to be an efficient layout and it’s, it’s going to serve this community very well,” said Ken Surbrugg, Joplin Resident.

More than a hundred people toured the site, starting with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Heightened security is just one new feature, both for visitors coming in the front door, as well as officials and even inmates entering from secure underground parking.

“The prime thing that we wanted to accomplish was security for our key personnel. And so we spent a lot of effort in fulfilling that. We wanted it to be friendly and easy. For the people that came and I hope we’ve accomplished that. And then thirdly, we wanted our employees to have a place that that they can be proud to come to proud to be a part of,” said Darieus Adams, Jasper County Commissioner.

The footprint of the new building is organized with county elected officials offices nearest the front door.

“Absolutely. I would say everything is your state of the art. I know technology changes daily, but we’d spent a lot of time, a lot of effort. A lot of research went into maximizing flows and being comfortable at your job and giving them all the benefits that they did have a need to use that to help in their jobs,” said Adams.

Court operations sit on the west side of the first floor and throughout the second floor.

“I would compare that with any federal courthouse in the United States, the technology, the security components are just top notch. Matter of fact, this building has three areas of circulation as a public circulation, and employee circulation and security circulation, and none of those touch each other. And so there’s no co-mingling potential, which is one of the big problems that we had in the old courts building as well as a lot of courthouses across the United States,” said Theis.

Nearly the whole building will open for business at 8:30 Monday morning.

The County Collector’s Office is the exception, where they say they’ll need at least one more day to make sure everything is operating properly.

Civil War era was not kind to Missouri's courthouses

McDonald County, Missouri Courthouse

JOPLIN, Mo. — As we turn our calendars to a new year, you’ll find that many historical anniversaries are set to take place in 2023. In Missouri, several of those anniversaries are associated with county courthouses. However, not every anniversary is a celebratory one. For example, 2023 marks the 160th anniversary of the arson fire that destroyed the Vernon County Courthouse (including the entire town of Nevada).

The damage to Missouri courthouses has a tremendous bearing on families in each and every way. Not only are these historic buildings ripped from each of our lifetimes, but also the archives they kept: Marriage, wills, probate, land records, as well as others. Once destroyed, these paper artifacts are permanently lost.

When you look at the dates, most Missouri courthouses that were lost to fire, took place from 1881 to 1885, and it’s not just a coincidence. This was the time of the US Civil War, and when you have a slave state (Missouri) next to a free state (Kansas), small skirmishes and battles were quick to break out in nearly every county in the “Show-Me State.”

Thanks to the historical records website, “Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness” (RAOGK), the dates and information surrounding these courthouse fires have been archived for future generations to access and learn about. The following list from RAOGK reveals which Missouri courthouses went up in flames during the Civil War period of April 1861 to April 1865:

List of Missouri Counties with Burned Courthouses (1861-1865)

  • Barry County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1861, some records destroyed.
  • Bates County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1861, some records destroyed.
  • Barton County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in November 1862.
  • Chariton County Courthouse – A fire in the clerk’s office, apart from the courthouse, destroyed all county court records on November 11th, 1861, and fires set by Confederates on September 20th, 1864 destroyed the courthouse.
  • Christian County Courthouse – Arsonists destroyed the building and all court records in 1865.
  • Dade County Courthouse – The courthouse was destroyed during the Civil War on October 6th, 1863. Some records were destroyed.
  • Dallas County Courthouse – Confederate troops burned the building on October 18th, 1863.
  • Dent County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1864. The next courthouse, built in 1864, also fell victim to fire in May 1866. The fire destroyed county records.
  • Greene County Courthouse – A fire destroyed the courthouse on October 28th, 1861.
  • Holt County Courthouse – Courthouse fire in February 1965. Records saved.
  • Howell County Courthouse – In the fall of 1863, guerrillas burned West Plains and the Courthouse. Most records were destroyed. The county reorganized in 1866.
  • Jasper County Courthouse – Courthouse was destroyed by fire in October 1863. County records were saved by moving them to Neosho, Missouri.
  • McDonald County Courthouse – In 1856 a log courthouse, reportedly built in Rutledge, was demolished by Rioters. Bushwackers burned the courthouse in 1863, destroying most records. Deeds before 1863 were recreated.
  • Newton County Courthouse – Courthouse burned in 1862, destroying many county records.

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  • Oregon County Courthouse – In October 1863 this courthouse was burned in a Civil War incident, destroying many county records.
  • Ozark County Courthouse – Courthouse destroyed by fire in 1858 or 1859, all early records were destroyed. Second courthouse destroyed by fire sometime before February 1864. Some records were lost. Third courthouse destroyed by fire November 28th, 1934.
  • Reynolds County Courthouse – The courthouse has burned twice. The first time was in December, 1863, when the Confederate army burned it. A new courthouse was built in the fall of 1867 on the same foundation as the prior one. This courthouse was burned in late November, 1871. Both times all records were destroyed. Temporary quarters again burned May 27th, 1872, while a new “fireproof” courthouse was being built.
  • Saline County Courthouse – In August 1864 the courthouse burned as a result of Civil War activity.
  • Stoddard County Courthouse – During Price’s raid in September 1864, the courthouse was burned by some stragglers, but fortunately the records had been removed.
  • Shannon County Courthouse – Courthouse was burned by soldiers in 1863 destroying this early courthouse along with all county records.
  • St. Clair County Courthouse – The courthouse apparently was burned in September 1861 by Gen. James Lane. One account claims that Lane’s raid only partially destroyed the courthouse; by some accounts it was rebuilt and used until November 1864, when it was again burned in Civil War activity. Probate Court records were destroyed.
  • Taney County Courthouse – The courthouse was burned in 1863 by Union troops trying to keep the fortress out of the hands of Confederates.
  • Vernon County Courthouse – Both the courthouse and clerk’s office were destroyed when the town was burned in 1863. County Court records are missing from 1861-1865.
  • Webster County Courthouse – Courthouse was accidentally burned by troops in 1863.
  • Wright County Courthouse – Courthouse was partially destroyed in 1862 and then reportedly burned on January 11th, 1863.

New Joplin school officially opens

JOPLIN, Mo. — Joplin’s newest school officially opened today, combining West Central and Columbia Elementaries.

The first day of the spring semester is a big deal on North Main Street.

“I really like it,” said Brynn Walters, Joplin Student.

The new gymnasium and playground and cafeteria make up the brand-new Dover Hill Elementary School.

“I like the lights, designs and I like the library, how big it is,” said Paiten Vincent, Joplin Student.

Everything is new on campus and even figuring out where to go for lunch and make it back to class is a challenge.

“In fact, I talked to my fifth-grade teachers this morning and they said their kids were just almost in Shell Shock this morning. Just coming in the size of the rooms and just the how beautiful the campus looks,” said Bret Ingle, Dover Hill Principal.

The footprint is much bigger, more than 70,000 square feet, which means more elbow room for everything from the cafeteria to classrooms.

“We’re going from trailers at one campus to humongous music rooms and art rooms and having a gym that’s available to us at Columbia. We haven’t had a gym available for the last few years,” said Ingle.

There are now options for collaborative learning, including two spaces called “Learning Parks” where classes can combine.

“So we have a couple of spots where if a couple of teachers want to combine their classes to come out, they can work together. We also have collaborative spaces in the backs of each pod of grades,” said Ingle

School history is also front and center, both in a mural in the media center, and a timeline in the cafeteria hallway.

“It’s kind of a map in the background. It shows shots from West Central to Columbia to Dover Hill and it just shows the timeline of both buildings and how they were built and renovated. And then the timeline for construction,” said Ingle.

All leading to the newest nest for these Joplin Eagles.

Jasper County to open new Courts building

JOPLIN, Mo. — More than two years of construction is officially wrapping up as Jasper County gets ready to launch its new courts building.

Officials will host a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday for the project at 7th and Pearl.

The public ceremony will be held at 10 a.m., followed by an open house through noon.

The new building houses court operations, along with the Joplin office of several county officials.

Construction began in December 2020, following voter approval of the project in 2019.