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Vilonia volunteers impressed by community

By Lisa Burnett

This article was published April 29, 2014 at 4:15 p.m.

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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/RICK MCFARLAND --04/28/14-- Teela Baxter is eager to be reunited with her cat Pete after her husband Matt rescued him unharmed from underneath debris of their home Monday on Aspen Creek Dr. in Vilonia after it was destroyed by the tornado that hit the area Sunday night. The Baxters were not home at the time the tornado hit.

— After a tornado ripped through Arkansas on Sunday, a call for help came to American Red Cross employees nationwide. Though Sara Smith is stationed in Philadelphia, she was ready to go.

Smith, a spokesperson for the American Red Cross, said the call for volunteers came when the tornadoes were on the ground in Arkansas.

“Yesterday morning. That’s when I got the call,” Smith said Tuesday.

She got on a plane and landed in Little Rock around 9 p.m. Monday. Smith has been stationed in Vilonia, helping those in need.

“I gotta say, the first word that came to my mind was ‘resilient,’” Smith said. “The folks here are amazing.”

Smith said she’s seen three generations of families working to go through home debris.

“It’s amazing to see it,” she said.

Smith is part of the public affairs team, and her main job is to spread the word about where people can go to get help.

Part of Smith’s time in the Vilonia community has been at the Beryl Baptist Church, located at 873 U.S. 64-B — which is serving as a headquarters for the Red Cross.

Janet Blair, a member of Beryl Baptist, is helping wherever she can.

“Well, yesterday, me and my husband spent the afternoon at our pastor’s house,” she said.

The church’s pastor, Wade Lentz, lost his home in the storm.

“We spent the day going through stuff, piling lumber and picking up debris,” Blair said.

Blair is a Vilonia resident, but her home was left unharmed.

“We were blessed,” she said. “There aren’t words to describe [the damage]. I can’t comprehend what it would be like to have nothing.”

Blair has known Lentz for many years and said her pastor is like one of her own children.

“They had nothing left. The clothes we did find were either soiled or torn.”

Blair is a cook at Vilonia High School, and said she felt like she needed to help where she could. The people she’s come into contact with have been in good spirits, she said.

“Most people are thankful that they’re still alive. That’s what keeps us all going. We have to be thankful for what we do have.”

Blair said she’s seen her community come together in this time of need, but she’s always been impressed with her community.

“It’s my home, and these are my people.”

Find out where and what you can donate to Arkansas tornado victims in our "How to Help" section.

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