Brad Beldon had to see the church for himself and figure out how he could help. After hearing the news of Sunday’s mass shooting, Beldon took the 30-mile trip from San Antonio to Sutherland Springs. He saw the 26 white crosses that sit across the street from First Baptist Church.
Beldon, a Spurs Season Ticket Member who owns a local roofing company, asked Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt if he could repair the church. When the Sheriff told him that the church would be demolished, Beldon decided he will rebuild it.
“I don’t know how to make them feel better, but I do know how to build things,” Beldon said. “If I have to knock on every single door in San Antonio to make it happen, that’s what I’ll do. We’re not going to let one person destroy everything.”
Beldon has started a GoFundMe campaign to build a new church along with a memorial park at the site of the damaged church.
He has spent the days since the shooting fundraising, speaking with First Baptist Church parishioners and crying with them.
He heard the stories of the Holcombe family, which lost nine family members, including an unborn baby, in the shooting. He learned more about victims such as Peggy Warden, who shielded her grandson when the gunman opened fire.
Beldon doesn’t know any of the church members personally, but as a lifelong South Texas resident, he said he was going to find a way to help.
“I’m a Jewish roofer, but it doesn’t matter what our faith is,” he said. “These are our neighbors. We’re Texans. We help each other. I’m a firm believer that there’s a lot more love and good people in this world than hate and bad.”
Beldon is starting a non-profit called Rebuilding Sutherland Springs Inc. and has raised more than $100,000 so far. He’s worked with Mark Collins, a former associate pastor at First Baptist, to work on figuring out the new home for the church.
First Baptist Church will go on, with services scheduled for Sunday at the community center next door. First Baptist pastor Frank Pomeroy said it would be too painful to ever use the current church again.
Beldon said he hasn’t spoken to Pomeroy yet, as Pomeroy is also a father grieving the loss of his daughter. Beldon said he doesn’t want to disrupt any of the residents in their recovery.
He wants to be ready whenever the church is ready to rebuild.
“They can work on healing as best they can, and we will work as hard as we can to get them in a building as soon as possible,” Beldon said. “When they open the door to the new church, the goal is a sense of hope. I hope when that day comes and the building is finished, someone will say ‘we’re going to be ok.’ I hope it’s a sunny day.”