The tornado caused 161 deaths.
"There was a lot of despair during those first couple of days,” said Bartow.
The story did not end there. The walls of the Bartows' home ended up providing a backdrop of hope during the months of recovery.
The city reports more than 118,000 volunteers traveled to Joplin to help. They brought with them hope and left behind messages of support on the walls of the Volunteer House.
"As the messages appeared they just became more and more inspirational, loving," said Bartow.
“We want to keep the house as original as we can, so we went ahead and put the vinyl and then we're going to cover it,” said Joel Garza of Tracker Marine.
Tracker Marine employees from Miami, Okla., volunteered to wrap the house to protect it from the elements.
"We know, if we don't preserve it now, we can't go back to the landfill and get it out," said Tuttle.
The house will be moved to land owned by the city. At some point, community leaders hope it will become the centerpiece of a museum.
"To really preserve the heart, the soul, the voice of the people who came here in our greatest time of need," said Bartow.
The Volunteer House will showcase the spirit of those who came together for Joplin.
It will cost about $8,000 to move the house to city property. A local real estate group, The Glenn Group, is heading up that effort. Anybody wanting to help can contact David Glenn at firstname.lastname@example.org or (417) 623-7600.
News release from City of Joplin:
When the 118,000 plus volunteers came to the aid of Joplin's recovery efforts, many of them left more than their hard work. They left their inspirational words and messages of hope for the citizens of Joplin. These can be found written on the home at 2502 South Joplin - on the
walls, floors, studs and doors, but not on the ceiling. The home's ceiling was torn off, just as most houses were that lay in the path of the EF-5 tornado that swept through Joplin May 22.
Since the disaster, thousands of volunteers have inscribed messages of support and prayers among the remains of this house. Tim and Stacy Bartow own the house; during the heat of summer, Bartow would often provide water and a resting place for volunteers doing cleanup in the neighborhood and surrounding areas. He had painted the south wall with a large heart and a message "We Love You Volunteers!"
The response to that message has been overwhelming, as the majority of the home's remaining structure, such as it is, became the tablet for volunteers to leave their notes of praise, affection, admiration and support for the Joplin community. 2502 South Joplin is now referred to as "the Volunteer House".
"Most of the house is covered with messages to inspire our citizens," said Mark Rohr, city manager. "We have come so far in recovery largely because of the volunteers. We are truly indebted to them."
It is with this thought that the City pursued the Volunteer House's preservation from the weather elements.