"I have a house and I have a church that have all their walls," said the freshman from England as she stood amidst churches and houses that no longer have theirs.
Wyllia was among 22 students and staff from Williams Baptist College who pitched in Wednesday to help clean up the debris left by two tornados at Marmaduke. Another nine volunteers from WBC made their way to the town on Thursday.
"We have been sorting the debris into piles of wood, shingles and metal around these homes. We also cleaned the church parking lot and removed the broken glass that was there," said dean of students Susan Watson, who organized the effort.
The Williams group based its efforts at First Baptist Church of Marmaduke, which lost its family life center and sustained other damage in the storm. The volunteers helped clear debris at the church and at several homes in the neighborhood.
Watson had been in contact with Kim Bridges, pastor of First Baptist, since soon after the storm struck and asked if WBC could assist in the relief efforts. Bridges called for the cleanup crews as soon as insurance adjusters had surveyed the devastation, and the WBC volunteers responded with two hours notice when the call went out across campus on Wednesday morning.
"I feel like this is God's calling for us. This is what he wants us to do, and I like to help," said Jene' James, a sophomore from Jasper.
The thoughts are much the same for junior Ashley Shackelford of Hardy. "I felt led to do it," he said.
Brian Milligan, a junior who now lives in Walnut Ridge, responded from a sense of empathy. "I know the feeling," said Milligan, whose family's home in Kingsland, Texas, was damaged when a tornado sent a tree through the roof in 1999.
Estimates are that as many as half of the homes in Marmaduke were destroyed by tornados on Sunday, April 2, and the vast majority of homes there suffered at least some storm damage. Between 40 and 50 people were injured in the town, which has a population of about 1,100.
Watson said WBC will continue to make volunteer crews available to help the community as it recovers from the storm.