THE LIONS CHANGED MY LIFE A Giving Tree As the devastating tornado of May 22, 2011, tore through her house in Duquesne, Missouri, Shawna Kirk fearfully huddled in the bathtub, protecting her five dogs. Miraculously, she was in the one room of the house that survived the storm. But as she emerged to see the destruction wrought by the deadliest tornado in the United States since 1947, she knew life would never be the same. Reunited with her husband, Bill, the Kirks began to slowly face their catastrophic losses and begin to rebuild. When the Joplin Host Lions showed up in May 2012 with red maple trees—two of the 200 15-foot trees the Lions planted in her community— Kirk was beside herself with joy. Now, whenever she gazes at her beloved, thriving trees, Kirk is reminded of the Lions’ kindness and the preciousness of life. Q&A: Shawna Kirk LION Magazine: How bad was the damage from the tornado? Shawna Kirk: It was completely devastating. In seconds, my house was gone. My dogs and I were trapped in the rubble for three hours. When we got out, I somehow only had bruises and scrapes. I still have nightmares, and I panic whenever it storms. But I was grateful that my family was spared and that we were able to rebuild. There were a lot of people who lost a lot more than I did. LM: How did the rebuilding process go? SK: Thanks to a great contractor, it took only seven months to move back home. When I walked in for the first time, it felt like a stranger’s house. We gradually made it feel like home again. But our front and back yards were bare. I missed all of the trees and thick grass, but we couldn’t afford to do much planting. LM: How did you feel when the Lions brought you the trees? SK: So completely blessed. There’s just no way to tell them enough what it meant to us. I had actually always dreamed of having a maple tree. When they brought the trees we were so excited! They worked really hard in the heat to plant them. LM: How are the trees doing now? SK: They’re beautiful. I was amazed that the Lions came back several times to check on the trees. I just hope they know how much I appreciate what they did—not just giving us the trees, but the time and care they put into them. LM: Why does a tree mean so much to you? SK: It’s not just a tree to me. It’s helping us make new memories and heal. My dogs lay under the trees. I sit and read under them and watch them bloom from the deck. They’re uplifting. I don’t take them for granted, and I don’t take life for granted. Lions: have you heard from a beneficiary or a recipient of your kindness, service or charity? Tell us about the feedback you receive from those whose lives you’ve changed for the better. Email a brief description of your correspondence to email@example.com. Please include “Thank You” in the subject line.
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