It's a question that not enough Missourians ponder, say local emergency officials. There is one group, however, whose concern for the welfare of the their neighbors has inspired them to devise a unique proposition that, when implemented as directed, will eliminate the need for worry in the days, and weeks that follow a potential disaster in the Bootheel.
H.O.P.E. International, a help organization established in Bernie, Mo. in February 2011, recently established a "Bucket of Hope" disaster relief package that they are now offering to households in the event of an earthquake, tornado, flood or other circumstance that would leave the area with limited access to food supplies.
The five-gallon bucket is stocked with 25 packages of meals that each contain a rice and vegetable mixture, enough in each bag to add to boiling water and feed six people for a total of 150 meals per bucket.
"Each six-serving bag is vacuum sealed," explains Gale Jordan, an Essex native who heads up the Bernie H.O.P.E. International location. "And then the bucket itself is sealed. As long as the seal on the bucket remains unbroken, the meals have a 20-year shelf life."
The product contains rice, soy flour, and dried vegetables, that supply necessary source of vitamins and nutrients to sustain an average family for several weeks.
The cost per bucket has been set at $34. "That price covers the cost, including the labels and bucket," Jordan says. "We currently have 1,500 filled buckets ready at the Bernie location."
While some families have purchased the buckets to use as an ongoing source for economical meals, the buckets were established to keep on hand in case of a disaster.
While the "Bucket of Hope" is seen by many emergency planners as a staple for every household, H.O.P.E. International's Bernie outlet lacks the manpower to fill and seal enough buckets for prospective customers.
And so, the organization is reaching out to Stoddard County and Bootheel communities to help them out.
"We're encouraging organizations, church groups, businesses or any groups to host their own packaging events to help put these buckets together," Jordan says.
So great is the need that members of H.O.P.E.'s team will even deliver the rice product, the bags, labels, vacuum sealers and buckets anywhere in the county where groups are willing to "build the buckets" for the purpose of selling them to those in need.
The meals have sustained earthquake victims in Haiti and Mexico and recent tornado victims in Indiana and Kentucky. Closer to home, they were delivered to flood victims in Morehouse a year ago when those residents were chased from their homes due to rising waters.
Project "Buckets of Hope" is funded through the sale of items at the Bernie H.O.P.E. facility Thrift Store. There, everything from baby furniture to books and jeans to framed artwork - all organized in department store fashion - is sold at discount prices.
"The store is what keeps our doors open," Jordan attests. "The items are donated. We have volunteers who come in and sort, clean and price the items. Anyone can come and shop."
The work of H.O.P.E. International hardly stops at the door of the Thrift Store or with the Buckets of Hope. The organizations offers help in the way of furnishings and food to not only victims of disasters such as the 2011 floods, but also to victims of house fires and also to families who simply need a helping hand.
"We treat every case individually," Jordan explains. "It's difficult to set a standard on a family's needs. Everyone's circumstances are different and when someone comes to us in need, we assess their circumstances and try to do give them the help they need to get back on their feet."
H.O.P.E. workers will also make themselves available to pick up any donations that households may wish to donate to their cause.
Anyone interested in hosting a bucket packaging event or for further information regarding the work of H.O.P.E. International is asked to contact Gale Jordan at 573-293-HOPE or 573-293-4673.