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Home is where the heart is Story by Aimee Freston • Photography by Chelsea White


F


ollowing the American Civil War, R.C. Buckner was burdened by the devastating need in his country. As he traveled, he witnessed hundreds of children orphaned by war and disease, and it compelled him to take action. “Father” Buckner opened the Buckner Orphans Home in 1879, providing ease and comfort to orphans in the Dallas area. After Father Buckner died, the Orphans Home continued its ministry, and in 1933, orphan Helen Roller found a home there. At age 8, Roller’s parents died, and she was left on her own. At first,


Roller didn’t know what was happening or where she was going as the pastor of First Baptist Church in Amarillo, Texas placed her in the car, but she wasn’t scared, just curious.


Roller was taken to the Buckner Orphans Home and remained there until she was 18 years old and graduated from high school. Today, at 90 years old, Roller has many memories of those formative years. “It was a large campus,” she says. “And when I think back, I think of those big buildings and all the children.”


When Roller first arrived, there were structures for elementary and high school classes, girl and boy dormitories, a chapel, an auditorium,


a medical clinic and a dining hall. It was home for Roller. “It was a self-contained place,” Roller remembers. “I think there were about 650 kids. Most of my class members are gone now, but I still enjoy corresponding with one who keeps in touch with all of us. I talk to her and find out what is happening.” The first dormitory Roller remembers was a large room with about


30 beds. There weren’t any closets or extra furnishings, and the girls’ dresses were stacked on a chair and handed out each day. However, in 1938, five years after Roller first came to the Orphans Home, the girls dormitory was rebuilt, creating a more relaxed atmosphere and home-like conditions. “They started building those other buildings and then I had eight [girls] to a room, and we had closets and our own clothes,” Roller says. “As we grew, we would move to other buildings, and by the time we were seniors, there were four of us in a room. Because we lived together and attended school together, we felt like sisters.” Living at the Orphans Home wasn’t much different than other homes – other than the multitude of children. Manna Hall, the dining room,


48 Buckner Today • SUMMER 2015 ISSUE


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