Family opens community center’s doors to help Sutherland Springs recover

Local family provides community with food, drinks and a place to find peace after church shooting. (KXAN photo)
Local family provides community with food, drinks and a place to find peace after church shooting. (KXAN photo)

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas (KXAN) — When a major event happens like the shooting in Sutherland Springs, amazing stories of people stepping up to help make headlines. Just moments after the shooting, a small family jumped in and started the job of major recovery organizations.

Sutherland Springs is a small town with just one blinking light, a handful of city streets and an entire population less than most elementary schools in Central Texas. Since Sunday, hundreds of investigators and dozens of reporters with cameras have packed the city’s small streets. So much has been going on since the shooting that many in the community say they are having a hard time just catching their breath.

“It was a thing I’ll never be able to forget,” said Alice Garcia, who was born and raised in Sutherland Springs. “We immediately came here to the community building and we ran up to the church.”

Garcia and her husband have helped run the Sutherland Springs Community Center for five years. They’ve hosted numerous birthdays, family reunions and city festivals. The Garcias know just about everyone in the town, including the congregation at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs. They know their names and even their specialty in the kitchen.

“You could feel her love in her baking,” said Garcia, referring to one of the shooting victims recovering in the hospital. “She made the best chocolate cupcakes.”

The couple is used to seeing only a few people a day in their town, but for the past two days it’s been a steady stream of unfamiliar faces.

“This has been an overwhelming experience, but it’s also a humbling experience because everywhere you look there is someone hurting and others there to help,” said Garcia’s husband, Oscar Garcia.

On Sunday, the couple was just leaving their church in La Vernia when they heard about the shooting.

“We didn’t think it would be this bad. It wasn’t until we were driving home that reality basically slapped us on the face when we saw the ambulances going towards San Antonio,” said Alice.

Not knowing what she could do to help, she decided to open the doors of the community center. It wasn’t long before the small building filled with local residents. The center served as a meeting spot for family then turned into a place welcoming donations and serving food to first responders and anyone else in the community.

“The first responders have been able to come here and get some rest, get some food provided for them, just some kind of peace and quiet,” said Alice.

Unfortunately it’s a sense of peace many in this community have yet to find themselves. “I try not to think about it as much, but yeah I know it’s going to hit me,” said Alice.

“This is a tragedy that will forever change Sutherland Springs,” said Oscar.

The Garcias say they will keep the center open for as long as they are needed.

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