SUTHERLAND SPRING, Texas - Just days after the mass shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a makeshift memorial with flowers and stuffed animals continues to grow.
But that’s not the only sign of support arriving in this small town east of San Antonio.
Mary Beth Fisk is the CEO of a San Antonio-based counseling and education non-profit called The Ecumenical Center. She and her team have been on the ground since Sunday night to provide counseling to victims and family member, particularly children.
“Everybody’s grief journey is unique to them,” Fisk said. “It’s important to have someone who’s trained to walk through this complicated grief process with these families.”
Fisk was nearby near the makeshift memorial on Tuesday, around for anyone who may need to talk.
While Fisk spends time next to the flowers at the corner outside the church, across the street on another corner Donna Watkins was setting up a table of stuffed animals she brought with her from her home in Corpus Christi.
Watkins is with the Homicide Survivors Support Group. She says she lost her brother decades ago and that gives her a unique perspective from which to assist.
“It’s the most traumatic, worst thing that a family can ever go through. There is no way that unless you have walked through their shoes that you know where they’re coming from.”
Up the road about 15 miles is the small, one-room St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. One of its 27 congregants is Paula Reinecke. They were still in church services in the nearby town of Adkins this Sunday when they heard the sirens heading to the scene in Sutherland Springs.
Almost immediately, she and her husband, having both recently finished culinary school and having assisted in Hurricane Harvey at similar events, decided to put their skills to use.
“In Texas, we barbecue,” Reinecke said. “It’s a comfort food here.”
They—and their newly-formed organization they call “Smokin’ Angels BBQ Ministry"—are hosting a barbecue benefit event this Saturday on the grounds of the church. They posted about the event on Facebook Sunday night, and, as Reinecke said, overnight “it kind of exploded.”
They’re already gotten hundreds of calls, texts, and Facebook messages with offers of money, barbecue pits, even a walk-in cooler for the weekend; not to mention they’ve already received over 3,000 pounds of pork.
“Being Texans, we jump in and save each others’ backs. We jump in when we know we’re needed.”
She says that’s what Texans do in the face of evil.
“It makes my heart smile.”