Local Church Raises Money for City Grill Victims' Families

April 3, 2011 Updated Apr 3, 2011 at 7:00 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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April 3, 2011 Updated Apr 3, 2011 at 7:00 PM EDT

Buffalo (WKBW) Sunday morning at the True Bethel Baptist Church in Buffalo is normally a lively and moving service. But this Sunday, it was home to an outpouring of community support for the families of the victims of the City Grill shootings.

Reverend Darius Pridgen and the Buffalo community opened up their hearts and wallets to show support for the families of those killed last summer outside City Grill.

"We're going to write a check for these families today. They will be delivered by 4 o'clock today, to every family," Pridgen said during the morning service.

With controversy surrounding who should receive reward money set aside for the arrest and conviction of the City Grill shooter, a local parishoner started the push to raise funds specifically for the victims' families.

Willie Walker came up with the idea, and started the collection with a donation of $500. That was quickly matched by Reverend Pridgen.

"I just felt compelled. No other reason other than I felt compelled," Walker explained. "We have enough negativity going on in our neighborhood, amongst our people, sometimes we've got to talk about positive things."

Following a moving speech by the pastor of True Bethel, the congregation began pouring in donations.

The clergy was then reminded that one victim was still in the hospital, and in critical condition. The family of Demario Vass then came to the church, and were welcomed with prayers and donations.

Destinee McBride, Demario's sister, spoke to Eyewitness News after the morning service about the community's response.

"It just shows we can come together in a time of need. We can help one another instead of going against each other and fighting each other and killing each other. We know how to get together," she said.

After four services in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, True Bethel raised over 27 thousand dollars. The money will be split among the four families who lost a loved one outside City Grill last August.

"I never thought it would snowball to this big. I thank the community for all they did. I thank this church. And I hope there can be more people like me and more like this church," Willie Walker said.