Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Food Pantry Brings Mourners Together after Church Shooting

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Food Pantry Brings Mourners Together after Church Shooting

Article excerpt

SUTHERLAND SPRINGS, Texas * The reopening of a food pantry offered this stricken Texas town another chance to mourn Friday as the charity resumed its weekly operations five days after more than two dozen people were killed at the church next door.

People crowded inside the By His Grace pantry, tearfully hugging and filling bags with donated bakery goods, groceries and used clothing.

The pantry's director, Lula White, was among those killed in the shooting Sunday at First Baptist Church. White, 71, was the grandmother of the gunman's wife.

As Brandy Johnson, 68, walked in, she flinched and said she could "see Lu at the desk." White "had a heart as big as Texas," she said.

Judy Green, along with her husband, Rod, have operated the pantry for 11 years. She said she had slept little since Sunday, waking up screaming from nightmares. The couple, who were married at the church, were not at the service Sunday but later watched as worshippers were carried out in body bags.

"It is fresh in my mind. I see it all just over and over and over," Judy Green said.

Deana Cassel, 52, a lung cancer patient, wiped away tears as she helped straighten piles of used clothing. She said volunteering at the pantry had given her a sense of purpose and a way to channel her grief about losing friends in the shooting.

"There's a lot of poverty in this area, but people don't only come here for something to eat. These people make them think they have someone in their life," she said, gesturing toward the Greens.

Law enforcement officials have reopened the intersection where the First Baptist Church stands, but black mesh material was tied to the chain-link fence surrounding it.

At annual Veterans Day observances Saturday, the church victims with military backgrounds will receive a full military salute on the grounds of the community hall, said Alice Garcia, president of the unincorporated town's community association.

"Everyone in the community is doing what they can, but honestly everyone feels so helpless," Karyssa Calbert, 20, of neighboring Floresville said at the hall. …

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