Joplin couple restores city with green initiatives in mind 2

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JOPLIN - An EF-5 tornado struck the city of Joplin on May 22, 2011. The next day Jeff Neal, a real estate developer and resident of Joplin, got into his bulldozer and helped clear the streets of his community. 

"It was not a tragedy that we owned and were responsible for. It was an act of nature and what we own and are responsible for is our reaction to that act," he said. 

Neal and his wife Carolina Neal are still reacting to the natural disaster by doing what they do best, rebuilding. The two own a construction company. Together they've rebuilt the city's hospital, high school and oldest park. 

"It was a great time to be from Joplin. In the sense, you had an opportunity to help in your way and get to know your neighbor that not would have been possible otherwise," Jeff Neal said. 

Now the couple has shifted their focus toward restoring downtown Joplin. 

"We want to make the city of Joplin a better place," Carolina Neal said.  
The Neal's deem a better place as one that is eco-friendly. They recently restored the city's first mortuary, built 100 years ago, into a 100 percent environmentally sustainable office space for rent. 
Their decision to go green was one that stemmed from a desire to not only cut construction carbon emissions, but also sustain Joplin's history. 
"You don't know where you're from when you go to a newly developed part of town which is a series of strip malls," Jeff Neal said. 
The two continue to reflect on what they call the biggest lesson as the seven-year anniversary of the tornado approaches in May. 
"We are a community. We are a family. We are all in in this place. For good or bad we need to be together," Carolina Neal said. 
The couple says their hope is to attract investments and more people with sustainable restorations.