Representatives of the Central Texas Veterans’ Memorial board collected a $10,000 check at Weakley-Watson Ace Hardware in Brownwood Thursday, thanks to the store’s fundraising to help replace four granite tablets shattered the night of May 19.
The funds generated by Weakley-Watson customers had grown by another $1,000 after the $10,000 check was printed Tuesday. Harold Stieber, president of the veterans’ memorial board, didn’t have an exact total of the amount raised by the community to replace the tablets. But it’s probably approaching $30,000, Stieber said.
The cost of replacing the four four tablets will likely be in excess of $40,000, Stieber said. Additional fundraising has included at least three GoFundMe pages that have been established, and the board received $2,900 in donations at the Memorial Day observance held at the veterans’ memorial.
Although some have thought vandals were responsible, the damage was most likely caused by a windstorm that blew in the night the tablets were destroyed, Stieber said. Police have found no evidence of vandalism.
Stieber explained the origin of the Weakley-Watson fundraising, which began after Weston Jacobs, whose family owns the business, asked Stieber how he could help.
“I said ‘well we have all these pieces of destroyed monuments here,’ and he said ‘we could take these and perhaps auction some of them off for money,’” Stieber said.
“At the same time, he had a fundraiser outside during the auction.”
Customers were also given the opportunity to “round up” their purchases to the nearest whole dollar amount and have their change donated to the memorial.
“The next thing I know, this thing is like a floodgate opening up, and he gives us a check for $10,000, and it’s still going,” Stieber said. “That helps get us close to our goal of replacing the granite tablets that were destroyed by the wind.
“So the momentum is taking us to the goal rather rapidly. I think we will achieve the total goal of rebuilding it as it was before the storm.”
Jacobs said he’s had calls from people in other states who want to know how they can help.
“Ace Hardware is very kind,” Jacobs said. “The president of Ace Hardware, John Venhuizen, reached out to us and they made, I think, a $1,000 donation on a GoFundMe page.”
Stieber said the community’s donations have validated his faith in Brownwood. “It’s why I moved here 45 years ago, because it’s such a generous city,” Stieber said. “It’s a small town, and in small towns, everybody seems to know what’s going on and they want to get involved, and even without asking, hardly, people come up and want to help.
“I’m really proud of our community. As far as the memorial goes, I come from a military family. It means a lot.”
Stieber and Joyce Leiding, secretary-treasurer of the veterans’ memorial board, earlier related the story of 13-year-old Mason Burkett, who approached Leiding at the Memorial Day observance and wanted to donate $5 — all the money he had.
Mason’s father, Army Cpl. Donald “Wesley” Burkett, was a Brownwood native who was killed in Iraq in March 2008.
“I just can’t tell you what hat means,” Stieber said of Mason’s donation. He compared it to the biblical account of a poor widow who ave a small amount to the temple offering — all the money she had to live on.
“That reminded me of that particular Bible story,” Stieber said. “He gave all he had. So did his father.”
Jacobs agreed, saying, “I’ve read that story in the Bible my whole life, and it means so much more when you see people putting that into play.”
Jacobs said he heard people say they wanted to donate but didn’t have much and gave what they had.
“Those are the ones that’ll change me the rest of my life — the way that I saw people give their little to their lot, whatever they had, people were just coming to do their part,” Jacobs said.
“I could’ve never guessed it would have gone this way. This is why I moved back to Brownwood. I was in the city. Things like this — this is why we moved back. This community jumps up to help those when they hurt, and the same thing is going on with the folks down in Richland Springs right now. There are people jumping up left and right to help them, and that’s why we live in this community. When there’s a need, they fill it.”