An army of volunteers, including eight Golden Retrievers, came to help Uvalde recover

Uvald, Texas – Carlos Hernandez loves to cook, especially when he does it for the people he loves. But on Tuesday, for the first time in his life, he could not turn on the grill.

Hernandez remained trembling, paralyzed for a while.

But two days later, out of determination and despair, he put on an apron and went to work. Now, more than ever, he decided that Yuvaldi needed his comfort food.

Within hours, Hernandez served more than 60 family-friendly dishes with fried fish, mac and cream cheese, and other Texas favorites to grieving community members who were too uncomfortable to cook for themselves.

In the middle of filling the plates, Hernandez found time to restrain and mourn the neighbors and listen to them as they unloaded days of feelings and tension. Many were struck by violence, cried and ate and then cried again.

To increase passers-by, he had positive and uniform messages written on the windows of his restaurant.

“It’s a really difficult situation, I’m just trying to show children that they are our backbone and our support system,” he told CNN. “We always deliver, whether there is an accident or not.”

Hernandez is just one of many gathering under the banner of “Ovald Strong” to help calm another American community devastated by the catastrophe of gun violence. Last week, hundreds of people, near and far, dispersed downtown to provide volunteer services and do other acts of kindness.

“Showing families we care about is what we do,” Hernandez said, before admitting he did not know if the community would ever fully recover. At the moment, however, he and others are committed to helping Ovald grieve and grieve.

“Makes you think about your children”

For Patrick Johnson, traveling to Yuvaldi is as much an act of service as it is a means of survival. Upon hearing of the massacre, he became so sad that he could not continue his day.

“I immediately exploded and cried,” Johnson, 58, told CNN. “I am not from this community either, but it hurts me. It makes you think about your kids. It makes you realize that you may have been sad for your children. ”

Johnson packed his car and drove over seven hours from Harlton, Texas, to Ovaldi. His first stop in town was Walmart, where he stuffed his chest with children’s toys before heading to town square.

For three days, Johnson sat under the hot Texas sun while displaying a table filled with stuffed animals, miniature trucks, Frisbee and soccer balls. He invited trans children to choose any toy they liked, a simple gift from a big-hearted stranger. Whenever the table is empty, he rushes to Walmart to recharge.

Patrick Johnson traveled seven hours by car from Harlton, Texas, to provide toys for Ovald's children.

“When you lose something, especially as a child, you need something else to hold on to,” he said. “It brings joy to the children, so it brings happiness to me.”

“It was a sled with emotions. I was giving toys and a little girl wanted my big white puppy, he just got lit. I told him I would do the race to get the game and let him win. She took the puppy toy and the way she held it … she hugged me and said thank you and how happy she was. That’s why I’m here. “

This is not the first time Johnson has offered support to a Texas community affected by gun violence. He drove to Sutherland Springs in 2017 and Santa Fe in 2018 to provide care and assistance after a massive shooting there.

Repeated tragedies have left Johnson emotionally exhausted, but he says Ovaldi is where he needs to be now.

“Especially in Texas, we do not expect the government to do things, we help our people,” he said before encouraging others to join the effort.

“There are many ways to be a blessing to people.”

Shelter for the families of the victims

Prior to filming, the El Progreso Memorial Library was just a place to read and borrow books. Since then it has turned into a healing space.

“We want the building to be a safe place, a quiet, peaceful and wonderful haven,” Mendel Morgan, director of the library, told CNN.

The El Progreso Memorial Library was transformed into a healing space.
The day after the tragedy, the library welcomed community members with a selection of books and other resources on grief and mourning, as well as hope, inspiration, and guidance. She also held ‘story time with Miss Martha’. “Librarian Martha Carrion was reading, singing and laughing with local children.

Morgan says he wants El Progreso to play an active role in treating Uvalde’s children and adults. In the coming days and weeks, the library will host psychologists, masseurs, pianists, magicians and artists to share their talents with the community.

A day after Robb Elementary School tragedy, the library offered books on grief and mourning.

“This is a small rural town with a strong Hispanic flavor,” he said. “The family is the key to this culture, so the hateful act affected a large number of people in Ovaldi and beyond.”

To provide ongoing support, his team set up the Los Angeles de Robe Memorial Book Fund. Morgan said the donations, which have already begun pouring in from across the United States, will be used to buy books, games and puzzles and fund programs that will help put families on the road to recovery.

“We are still in shock,” he said. “First, it takes time to allow all of us to recover from trauma, face post-traumatic reality, and find positive ways to move forward.”

“This is a strong community in which we have real care and concern for each other,” Morgan added. “Many, if not most, adhere to their belief in God, that good is stronger than evil, and light is stronger than darkness.”

“We will stay as long as we need to.”

For seven years, Bonnie Fair has traveled with Lutheran Church charities throughout the United States, providing relief to tragedy survivors in the form of a quality time with emotional support dogs.

This week, the Crisis Response Coordinator and her team of therapists are in Ovaldi with eight delicate Golden Retrievers: Abner, Kobe, Devora, Elijah, Gabriel, Joey, Miriam and Triton.

Dog caregivers at Lutheran Church charities offer comfort to bereaved families in Ovaldi, Texas.

They sit together in the town square to lure adults and children alike to roam and play. In fact, dogs wear blue jackets that say, “Please spoil me.”

“Often after something like this, people do not want to talk to a man,” Fair told CNN. “After traumatic events, people do not want to deal with people, sometimes they just want what they can touch, talk without judging and it is very simple.”

“They show unconditional love,” she added, referring to dogs.

There are melancholy signs all over the town square. A woman kneels in front of a cross and cries and trembles so hard that she tries to breathe. A family of three sits on the bench behind her, praying.

The air is full of sadness and children can feel it – that is, until they see the dogs. Suddenly their faces glow with smiles.

Little girl spending time with a cozy dog ​​in Ovaldi.

A little girl sits on the grass and hugs Miriam, the energetic, eared princess who loves to be petted. As she left, tears welled up in her face. But when Miriam comes to kiss, she laughs. Her mother can’t wait to fight to hold back her tears.

“That’s why we’re here, to help people express their feelings,” Veer said.

Early Saturday, Veer and her team attended a special event where families directly affected by the shooting gathered to mourn.

At Town House's beloved restaurant, Uvalde's deceased finds some relief

“You could say a lot of kids weren’t ready to talk yet,” she said. “They were going towards a very sad and confused dog.” “But by the time they finished with that dog, they were hugging and smiling and even talking to the dog.”

Veer said the parents were overwhelmed with emotions when they saw their children interacting with the animals. For the first time in a few days, their children started smiling again.

She said at one point there was so much laughter from the area that officials got upset and came to check what was going on.

“Our group was with our dogs and our kids,” Fair said. “I would not say that they were exactly happy, but they were enjoying the moment of forgetting the horror.”

Veer said the grieving and healing process will take a long time. For many people, it has not started yet.

“We will be back. In a crisis like this, healing does not occur within four or five days. “We will bring more dogs and stay as long as we need.”

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