Bob Beadel slowly made his way long a long line of people that stretched far beyond a serving table late Monday morning outside the Law Enforcement Center.

Often smiling and laughing — but clearly emotional — Beadel exchanged hugs, handshakes and greetings with the people who’d arrived, undaunted by the chilly weather, to pay $10 a plate for a brisket-plate lunch.

The money that was raised — about $4,000 — went to Bob and his wife, Ann, who joined him a little later at the Law Enforcement Center and greeted the people.

The Beadels lost their home on FM 45 to a fire on the afternoon of Jan. 18. The fire started in a motor home that was parked in an attached shed. The fire destroyed the motor home and shed, and spread to the house, where it got into the attic. The cause has not been determined.

The Beadels got out safely and got their dogs out, and with the help of trooper John Moody rescued their two dozen rabbits.

Sheriff’s office employees organized the benefit, and cooked and served the food.

The Beadels said they haven’t decided their next step, but it will involve either rebuilding or buying another home. In the meantime they are staying in the home of some good friends who are on an extended vacation until later in the spring.

“We’re OK,” Beadel, who retired in 2014 as a Brown County constable, said frequently as he greeted people in line. Some were good friends, some were acquaintances the Beadels barely knew, and others were folks the Beadels had never met.

But whether friend, acquaintance or stranger, person after person  passed on messages of condolences and encouragement, overwhelming Bob and Ann with their generosity and kindness.

“Oh, we were amazed,” Beadel said by phone later Tuesday afternoon. “This is the greatest community in the world. You always know you have real good friends, but there were people there today I didn’t know.

“I was just overwhelmed at the number of people who were there on a bad, cold, windy day. … It was very emotional. I tried to greet each individual. It was extremely emotional. It was a pure outpouring of love.”

After the meals had been served, sheriff’s office employees had another surprise for Beadel: they’d taken up money to buy Beadel a

.40 caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol. The gun replaced Beadel’s service weapon, which had been destroyed in the fire.

“We’re doing fine,” Beadel said. “We have each other and we have memories. We’re making it by the grace of God.”

The Church of of the Good Shepherd in Brownwood, Beadel said, “has been absolutely wonderful in delivering food to us.

“It’s a God-fearing, God-loving community. All I can say is that Ann and I are very, very blessed to worship the God we worship and Jesus Christ, we appreciate and our friends and acquaintances.”