A light rain greeted Keith and Sue Parks as they drove up to the Missouri Mavericks Top Shelf Team Store.

A light rain greeted Keith and Sue Parks as they drove up to the Missouri Mavericks Top Shelf Team Store.

The couple came to the Independence Events Center Tuesday to unload a variety of items for the tornado victims in Joplin, Mo.

“I’m not a big hockey fan,” said Keith Parks, a resident of Blue Springs, “but I heard the Mavericks were letting people come to this store to drop off items for the tornado victims. And I think that’s great.

“We went out and got some clothes, some toiletries and a few other things and wanted to bring them by. I’m retired, but the company I used to work for had a branch in Joplin, and the tornado destroyed it.

“I just drove on the east side of Joplin on U.S. 71 and I-44 and you could see all the emergency vehicles, but none of the damage. But I have seen it on the TV, and I know those people need some help.

“And in Missouri, you help your neighbors.”

That seemed to be the theme throughout the morning as car after car pulled up in front of the Central Hockey League team’s apparel store to drop off a variety of goods that nearly filled it to capacity.

“I came over here thinking I’d find a few cases of water and some food,” Mavericks equipment manager Andrew Dvorak said, “and it looks like a (grocery) store in here there are so many items for the tornado victims.

“Something like this just makes you feel good about living in a place like Independence.”

Wyatt Zucca, a Mavericks season ticket holder and sponsor, is donating a truck to take one of the trailers full of supplies to Joplin on Thursday.

And he will be behind the wheel.

“I went to Haiti after last year’s earthquake and I have been to Florida after hurricanes and worked up north after the tornado hit Gladstone,” said Zucca, who owns his own roofing company, “but I don’t think I’ve ever seen the type of devastation I’m going to see when we roll into Joplin.

“What I’ve seen on TV is devastating. That’s why it’s so great there are people here in Missouri who like to help their neighbors. I don’t know how many trucks or trailers we are going to need, but we’ll get what we need and hit the road on Thursday.”

Team president and general manager Brent Thiessen was in Dallas for a league meeting when he heard of the massive tornado that swept through downtown Joplin, destroying a six-mile path that was nearly a mile wide.

“Our people were ready to go help and we were going to shut down our offices so we could do anything to help,” Thiessen said. “Then we heard that they only wanted emergency responders to come to Joplin.

“That’s when we decided to open the team store, so people could drop off items. I just went down and couldn’t believe the response.”

One corner of the team store had more than 80 cases of bottled water. There was also food, clothing, pet supplies, toiletries and toys.

“We sent out an email and put some information on Facebook on Monday and the people started bringing items at 9 a.m. Monday,” said Kaci Muller, the Mavericks director of retail. “And we opened today at 8 a.m. and the first group of people arrived at about 8:15.

“I get teary-eyed just talking about it. These are great people who want to help. One little lady brought up a six-pack of bottled water and said it was all she could afford. It was all I could do to keep from crying.”

Tina Short, the director of sponsorship fulfillment, had a similar story.

“It was raining and I went out to a lady’s car and she told me she grew up in Joplin and went to high school there,” Short said. “She said she visits Joplin about once a month, and that her 72-year-old cousin is missing. And she wanted to make a donation in her cousin’s honor.”

Kevin Gabert, the first individual to buy a Mavericks season ticket, brought 16 cases of water and offered his services to the team.

“I’m an Iraq War veteran, and I know there were people who supported me and I never met most of them,” Gabert said. “And I want to do anything I can to support these people.”

“I’ve been a season ticket holder since Day 1, and this team has meant a lot to me and our city.

“Now, it’s doing something for the people in Joplin, and I’m there to do anything I can to help them.”

Mavericks vice president of communications Patrick Armstrong said the Top Shelf Team Store will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and that all goods will be delivered on Thursday.

“I’m so proud of this city,” Armstrong said. “We have people coming out like Kevin who is one of our greatest fans, and then we have people coming out who heard we were collecting goods, and they just wanted to help.

“That’s what makes this city so special.”