Joy VanLandschoot's efforts following Mollie Tibbetts' disappearance in 2018 has since grown into what is coined today as Mollie's Movement: Finding Others. She is pictured here with her husband, Gabe.
By J.O. Parker
Two young people - Mollie Tibbetts and Xavior Harrelson, the 11-year-old Montezuma boy - have gone missing in Poweshiek County in the last three years.
Their cases may be different, but in many ways are the same.
And for one Brooklyn woman, looking for answers and helping families find closure has become a daily goal.
Joy VanLandschoot said she was like a lot of people in Brooklyn and the surrounding area who felt helpless when Mollie went missing on July 18, 2018.
“I wanted to do something,” she said.
VanLandschoot and her husband, Gabe, owned Live Now Designs at the time and decided to produce a free flyer about Mollie’s disappearance and post it on Facebook with a downloadable option. There were also other businesses such as Total Choice in Grinnell who were also offering Mollie flyers and helped get the word out.
A few days later, some friends and family of Mollie asked VanLandschoot to design and print T-shirts with Mollie’s name and photo on them for RAGBRAI in 2018.
And it grew from there.
Her involvement and efforts in the Tibbetts disappearance has since grown into what is coined today as Mollie’s Movement: Finding Others.
With the blessings of Mollie’s family, VanLandschoot started creating T-shirts, buttons, car magnets and promotional materials regarding her disappearance.
“We had volunteers helping make the buttons and helping package and ship out the large amount of orders,” she said of Mollie’s disappearance.
She’s also became active in the social media world sharing posts about Mollie and also working to keep her name on the frontlines of the local and national media as well as in people’s thoughts and prayers.
Today, VanLandschoot continues working to get the word out about missing children and adults from all across the nation.
When Xavior Harrelson went missing on May 27, VanLandschoot knew the importance of acting quickly to get the word out.
She created a downloadable flyer about the missing boy. That led to the creation of a new Facebook page, Finding Xavior Harrelson.
“The page was created to keep Xavior’s face and name in the public so he can be found,” VanLandschoot said. “We do not want people to give up on him.”
The new Facebook page was the idea of VanLandschoot and Tina Goff, who administers the page. Goff also mails out missing flyers daily around the nation of Xavior and worked tirelessly on the benefit concert fundraiser along with VanLandschoot.
The Facebook page also features a map of all 99 counties in Iowa. VanLandschoot created the Iowa map and has been asking people to let her know where flyers are being placed. She said people all across Iowa and other states have been posting photos and sending messages about what they are doing to get the word out about the missing Montezuma boy.
And on Tuesday, June 29, a benefit concert featuring Adam Whitehead and Hunter Mason, two up and coming country musicians from the Pella and Ottumwa areas, was held at the Poweshiek County Fairgrounds. The kid friendly event included a silent auction, drinks and food, all of which were donated, with all the proceeds going to the Xavior Harrelson Reward Fund.
VanLandschoot said she doesn’t do anything without the blessings of the family. In Xavior’s case, she has been working with his father and an aunt. And as with Mollie, VanLandSchoot has created T-shirts, buttons and car magnets with Xavior’s photo and information on them. She is currently making an orange T-shirt, Xavior’s favorite color, with his photo on it. For every shirt sold, $5 goes to the reward fund, which at last count was nearing $25,000.
Another product VanLandschoot is offering is called the Pizza Box Mission. For $15 plus tax and shipping, people can purchase 50 5x7 stickers that can be placed on carry out boxes (hence pizza boxes) or used in some other creative way to get the word out about finding Xavior.
VanLandschoot said on occasion people have questioned her motives. Some may think this is all about her. She always lets them know that the missing persons products are at the request of the family.
“I try to keep it positive and focused on the missing person,” she said. “The service we provide is for getting the word out as fast and far as we can. I assure you, we have plenty of other types of jobs that would be a much more reliable source of income, but this is something near and dear to our hearts and our employees.”
VanLandschoot said she and others have all been personally impacted by when Mollie went missing from her hometown of Brooklyn and now, Xavior.
“In a small community, everyone’s life is intertwined in some way,” noted VanLandschoot. “It has been a learning experience for us on the impact products for awareness can bring in getting tips to the authorities, giving hope to friends and family and keeping the story in the spotlight for media.”
“It doesn’t cost anything to click and share on social media,” added VanLandschoot. “If everybody can be resourceful and work together, it can have a big impact. The whole idea is to not give up hope. Family and friends of missing persons need answers. It is a void in their lives.”
For more information on Xavior and efforts to find him, please visit:
Finding Xavior Harrelson group on Facebook or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.