In April, an EF4 deadly tornado ripped across Arkansas. Where homes and businesses once stood, foundations lay wiped clean. The 180 mile an hour winds picked up a truck and tossed it 27 miles. It landed in Vilonia, the hardest hit area. That is also where Crystal Cantu from the Bayport Polymer (BYO) site landed.
In the haunting quiet that followed, residents would struggle to literally pick up the pieces. Crystal had already jumped into action. Upon hearing of the devastation, she organized a donation drive at BYO. The data entry clerk then recruited her father, Javier, who passed the word to his coworkers at the La Porte site. Senior Administrative Assistant Lori Gardner then kicked it into an even higher gear by spreading the message to the entire La Porte facility.
Gloves, safety glasses, clothing, blankets, cases of waters, canned goods and cash came flooding in from both Bayport Polymer and La Porte. Crystal could not believe the generous donations gathered in a very short amount of time. Along with boyfriend, Marcus, Crystal filled a truck and trailer. After 8 hours on the road, the couple arrived in Vilonia which sits 30 miles north of Little Rock.
“We were both in shock and in awe of what we saw. Homes and businesses obliterated. We drove by the school that was just completed and all we could do was stare at it with our mouths agape,” describes Cantu, “Town members and strangers coming together to help those in need by salvaging what is left of their personal belongings and for emotional support.”
The pair quickly unloaded all their boxes. But they didn't leave. They helped pick up belongings scattered in an open field. That's when they noticed a pond with hoses coming out of it. Residents explained they were draining the pond to recover debris left there by the tornado. The previous day five cars and a tractor were discovered in that pond.
Residents inquired where the couple had come from. Surprise and gratitude followed when they heard Crystal and Marcus had driven from the Houston area. Some would reach out and shake their hands, others would simply tip their head in thanks.
Vilonia is a tiny town with a population less than 4,000. Crystal has no connection to the community or its residents. She simply felt compelled to do something. Her actions speak to her compassion and character. If you don't think one person can make a difference, you have only to look at Crystal and realize they can.