Car Rental Agency Helps Joplin Residents After Tornado Destruction

Jeff Neuenschwander took these photos with his cell phone as he searched for Melinda Miller, one of his rental location managers, in her neighborhood in Joplin, Mo.
Jeff Neuenschwander took these photos with his cell phone as he searched for Melinda Miller, one of his rental location managers, in her neighborhood in Joplin, Mo.

By Jessica Carrick

Growing up in the heart of tornado alley, Jeff Neuenschwander, an Avis licensee serving Southwest Missouri, had been through it all before - but not like this one. The tornado that hit Joplin on Sunday, May 22 was classified as an F5 (out of 5) on the Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale. This is the most devastating tornado in the country since 1947.

Charting the storm as it crossed the state, Neuenschwander discovered it was heading for the house of Melinda Miller, the manager of his Joplin store.

"I texted her to see if she was OK, literally as I was watching the debris cloud on the radar on TV," says Neuenschwander, who lives halfway between Springfield and Joplin. With the phones out, Miller texted him that her house was damaged and she wasn't able to drive her car. "At that point I took off to try and find her," he says.

Neuenschwander arrived a half hour before dark. The initial emergency response teams waved him through thanks to an orange vest he was wearing.

"You could see the devastation and the gas fires," he recounts. "I tried to figure out where her house was but I couldn't tell the streets; there were no street signs and no houses. I could hear people screaming, and there were people trying to dig out others who were trapped."

Neuenschwander never did find Miller's house, but he ultimately found her in the neighborhood.

"We didn't know until after it was all over how bad our house was," says Miller, who was in the hallway with her boyfriend and three dogs when the roof was torn off. "And then we walked down the road and saw that just a few houses away there were houses that were completely leveled."

Neuenschwander loaded them up and took them back to the safety of his house.

CONTINUED:  Car Rental Agency Helps Joplin Residents After Tornado Destruction
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  1. Francetta Turner [ June 9, 2011 @ 05:50AM ]

    As an employee of Avis Budget Group this is an awesome story confirming once again our motto "We Try Harder". For those that were not aware we are definately in the business of treating people like people and this proves it. The Tulsa call center will continued to pray for all the residence of Joplin and it surrounding communities. Great job!!!!

  2. Javier Giarelli [ June 9, 2011 @ 12:26PM ]

    If we have more people like Jeff we have a better world. God bless your family and all the people suffering because of this tornado.

    It feels great to have people like Jeff working in our organization

  3. Kari [ June 10, 2011 @ 06:50AM ]

    I'm moved by the generosity and selflessness of Neuenschwander and the other Avis employees who helped and continue to help. Many blessings to you and your families.

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