One group of Pittsburg State University students may not be familiar with the tools of the construction trade, but they found their own way to help the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition building project in Joplin this week.

One group of Pittsburg State University students may not be familiar with the tools of the construction trade, but they found their own way to help the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition building project in Joplin this week.

About 50 students and faculty in PSU’s nursing degree programs worked the chilly overnight shift Thursday and Friday, doing everything from passing out bottled water to carrying supplies and clearing the sites of scrap lumber.

Gena Coomes, an instructor in PSU’s Department of Nursing and an organizer of the volunteer effort, said the challenge of getting the students on the same page, making sure they were registered and completing consent and release forms was a challenge.

“Any time you have a group of 50 people it can be difficult, but overall the process went smoothly,” Coomes said. “They told us they had 4,800 volunteers just on the wait list.”

Faith Naccarato, a senior nursing student from Frontenac, said their job was to help the professionals and PSU Construction Management students who have been working non-stop on the houses.

“These people have been donating their time, so the least we can do is donate our time to help them.”

Coomes said their efforts were a natural extension of some of the work that faculty and students performed in the hours and days after the tornado.

“When the tornado hit we had several nursing instructors and students who worked triage areas, community clinics, shelters and churches,” Coomes said, adding that the mother of one of the families affected — Crystal Whitley — is a PSU alum and has a sister who is currently a junior in the nursing program. “When we found out about this it seemed fitting to go back over and help with the rebuild. We did everything from shoveling rocks to picking up scrap pieces of wood, carrying siding and delivering coffee to construction workers. Pretty much anyything they needed, we did.”

Coomes said the students had additional motivation to help out in Joplin. Many of them underwent their clinical training at St. John’s Hospital, which was completely destroyed by the tornado.

“They had built releationships with the staff and nurses there, and they were very eager to go back and help,” Coomes said.

Bailey Bloomingdale, a senior from Olathe, agreed with Coomes and said working at the site made the students feel connected to the community.

“To see it destroyed has been hard, but to come back and help the community rebuild has been wonderful,” Bloomingdale said.

None of the students were required to help — PSU currently is on fall break — and Coomes said she is proud of the effort they made.

“I think it’s an experience they will never forget, and I think it touched them emotionally, mentally, and made an impact on them in such a positive way,” Coomes said. “It was a real honor for me to be their insturctor. They were on fall break, they weren’t in school and they took time on their vacation to go over there and help. It goes to show one person can make a difference in another person’s life, and I think that says a lot about their values and their attitude toward the communities that were affected.”

Ron Womble contributed to this report.