PEARL RIVER COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - This week, volunteers from Arkansas and Oklahoma are spending their spring break helping two South Mississippi communities hit hard by Christmas Day tornadoes. About 50 volunteers are building a house for a McNeill woman who lost her home and everything inside. She calls the volunteers a Godsend.
Almost three months after a tornado tore through the McNeill community, there are still piles of debris and empty slabs. But in the middle of all the devastation, you can hear sounds of recovery.
"Oh, I want to cry. It's amazing. It's a blessing to me. They're like a band of angels. I can't get over it," said Lynn Smith of McNeill.
Those 50 angels are volunteers from Prairie Grove Christian Church in Arkansas. Some came from Oklahoma. They drove 13 hours and brought their own materials to build a new house for Lynn Smith.
"They're going to black it in, put in windows and doors, and put a roof with shingles on it. So it's wonderful," said Smith with a big smile on her face.
Smith was left homeless on Christmas Day, when a tornado destroyed her house on Joe Smith Road.
"That was definitely our high of the day, just being able to see the face and just seeing the heart of the person we're building for. Because it's not just about building a house, we're building a home, and this is Lynn's home," said Mallory Jenkins, the team leader for the volunteers.
Seven-year-old Lucas Akey helped build more than just one house for Smith.
"I've been doing nails, like hammering stuff and yesterday, we built a bird house," said Lucas. "My mom's friend, she said, 'Build something.' And we decided to build a birdhouse."
While some of the volunteers are professional builders, others have never swung a hammer before. They have left their mark on this small Pearl River County community, and on a woman who has found hope after so much despair.
"I would drive my here every night and I would say is, 'I want to go home.' I told them over and over, I don't know how to thank you for this. They're just wonderful, every last one of them," said Smith. "I said we are homeless the day after it happened. I said I don't know what we're going to do or where we're going to go. We just cried and cried, but it's all worked out."
The volunteers expect to finish the framing by Thursday.
"I don't care if it's my spring break. It's nice to be here rather than the beach. It's nice to help out and just feel like you're actually making a difference in the world," said Jenkins.
About 50 volunteers from the same church are working in Wiggins, building a house for a couple whose house was also destroyed by a twister on Christmas Day.