San Antonio roofing company executive Brad Beldon on Wednesday announced plans to build a new place of worship for Sutherland Springs residents in the wake of Sunday’s mass shootings at the small town’s First Baptist Church.
Beldon, chief executive officer of Beldon, told the Rivard Report Wednesday afternoon that he has already raised $27,000 toward the project’s construction. The shooting by 26-year-old Devin Kelley of New Braunfels left 26 dead and 20 wounded. Kelly reportedly died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after fleeing the scene in his vehicle.
Kelley’s shooting rampage with a semi-automatic rifle riddled the First Baptist Church with hundreds of bullet holes in its walls and floorboards, Beldon said, reporting a conversation he had with Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt Jr.
Beldon said he traveled to Sutherland Springs Tuesday in hopes of volunteering his family’s businesses to rebuild the church. “I set up a GoFundMe last night at 8 o’clock,” Beldon told the Rivard Report on Wednesday.
Beldon said he wants to raise $2.5 million to construct a completely new church on a donated plot of land across the street from the First Baptist Church – with resident input. He said he believes the old church will be demolished and a memorial park put in its place, although he had no details and said the planning is still in its infancy.
On the GoFundMe page he created, Beldon wrote: “After visiting with the Sheriff Joe Tackitt and Pastor Collins, I decided to TEAM up with some friends in our business community and our goal is to provide the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs with a new home.” (Beldon was referring to Mark Collins, pastor at the Yorktown First Baptist Church who is acting as an interim pastor in Sutherland Springs.)
Beldon said he is directing the funds raised through GoFundMe to Rebuilding Sutherland Springs, a registered nonprofit he established for the project. Frost Bank is helping manage the project by establishing an account where the funds may be held, Beldon said.
Beldon said Marmon Mok Architecture has agreed to help design the new church, which will be a collaborative effort with the Sutherland Springs community.
Giving the community a new place to worship is paramount to its healing process, Beldon said, adding that a woman called him Wednesday after hearing about the GoFundMe page. He said she told him she had lost three family members in the shooting and was looking to restore some normalcy after days of mourning and media coverage. (Beldon declined to share her information with the Rivard Report out of respect for her privacy.)
“She was just overwhelmed by the generosity of the community,” Beldon said. His goal is to raise all funds for the new church within the next 30 days.