Uvalde residents raise money for the victims of the massacre the old way

Under a beating Texan sun, Guadalupe Salazar marveled at the family and friends around her cooking chicken and burgers on a blazing grill, pouring mugs of homemade lemonade and lathering pickups as part of a pop-up “car wash and sale of dishes “near the heart of the city.

All he could think of were the 21 families who had lost a loved one in the mass shooting on Tuesday at the local elementary school here in Uvalde, and the 21 white envelopes he had planned to fill with money from the proceeds from the event to help them. to cover the funeral costs or other immediate needs.

“Hi parents, I wanted to say that we feel so speechless about what your family is going through and we wanted to show some love and support for this tragedy,” Salazar had written in a letter accompanying each donation. “My family and friends joined together to help.”

In a small country with many ingrained traditions, this was the old way to give back.

Two women wearing Uvalde T-shirts smile as they stand in front of a white curtain

MJ Salazar, left, and sister Guadalupe Salazar, both from Uvalde, decided to cook burgers and chicken and run a car wash to raise money for the families of the 19 children and two teachers killed at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022. .

(Kevin Rector / Los Angeles Times)

Salazar, a Uvalde native and tax preparer, said three of her clients were directly affected by the shooting, in which 19 students and two teachers were killed by an 18-year-old gunman at Robb Elementary School. A customer, a dear friend, has lost her child.

After bringing her home-cooked meals, Salazar said, she realized she needed to do more. So she called her family, including her sister MJ Salazar, who is also a tax expert and consultant, and they got other family and friends involved.

And when they opened a store early Thursday morning, support came in torrents.

“We have been sold out since 7 am,” said MJ Salazar. “When people were supposed to have breakfast, they bought hamburgers.”

In the afternoon, one of the volunteers, Jared Martinez, eighth grade student, he estimated he had washed around 40 cars.

“It’s just to help families,” the 14-year-old said. “It was sad.”

Not all the volunteers knew each other. Among the newcomers to the group was Betsy Gonzalez, who washed a car with her 10-year-old son Nahum, a fourth-grade student at Uvalde Dual Language Academy.

Gonzalez said his son had joined Robb last year. He couldn’t help but wonder if he would have been in the classroom where 19 boys his age were killed if he hadn’t moved. The thought had been stuck in his mind from the slaughter.

So when she saw the car wash and understood its purpose, she asked if he could help her.

“I told them I don’t have any money to help or buy anything, but I can help,” Gonzalez said.

Others were happy to join in too, even if just grabbing something for dinner.

Jesus Castillo quit his job at a local equipment company Thursday, saw the group cooking, and went home to convince his wife, Rachel, and daughter Teresa to come back for burgers with him.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Rachel Castillo. “We have to help each other.”

Guadalupe Salazar said she hopes the money, however small, will give some families a little more breathing room to cry.

MJ Salazar said the car wash and license plate sales had given her purpose after a rough couple of days.

He has struggled since the shooting with nightmares and tried to wrap his head over the failure of the nation’s leaders to prevent such tragedies from happening again and again.

They should do something, he thought. Everyone should do something, she thought. She should have done something, she realized.

So, he did it.

She called family and friends, went to Costco in San Antonio for supplies, and set up tables around town, trusting that others in the community would do their part as well.

“Right now,” he said, “actions speak louder than words.”

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