EARLY — At the Early Chamber of Commerce, a group of four women, and man and a seventh-grader loaded bags and boxes of groceries, supplies and other household items into a car and a van Monday afternoon.

More bags. More boxes.

The items had been donated by Early residents, churches and organizations to help the residents of San Saba, where residents lost their only grocery store last week to a fire.

“I’m amazed at the different stuff that’s here. We’re trying to be neighbors helping neighbors,” said City of Early tourism director Denise Hudson, one of the women helping load the items.

Also present were Brittney Robinson, owner of the Lil Cactus Boutique in Early; Kandice Harris, chamber of commerce director; Langston Barnes, a Brownwood Middle School seventh-grader and Harris’ son; Mavis Bradsher, a licensed clinical social worker; and Bobby Brian, a truck driver who helps out.

“I’d seen on Facebook where people were commenting (about) what could be done, so Kandice messaged me and said ‘do you think Monday if we did a collection that we could use the Early car to go down and do it?’” Hudson said.

With the blessings of City Hall, the car used by the Convention and Visitors Bureau was used for the mercy mission, in addition to a van loaned by Daybreak Community Service.

Hudson noted the double burden San Saba residents faced with the loss of their grocery store in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis.

Harris said she contacted Brasher Saturday. “I said ‘I want to do this. Can you go around your neighborhood and find some donations?” Harris said. “She was Johnny on the spot, real quick, and so was Denise.

“It’s really just inspiring, how many people I called on Saturday that just jumped up and said ‘yes, we want to help fill this need.’ There’s been an overwhelming response, just a steady flow all morning long. People were dropping a little here, some had a lot, churches collected.” Bradsher said the American Legion post also helped with the supply drive.

Bradsher also said she’s encouraging people to give her a call “if they’re worried, if they get scared, if this makes makes them nervous” because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

“One of the things we see when people get isolated is they get scared, and they just need someone to talk to that can maybe direct them to other services in town,” Bradsher said.

“If they don’t have somebody to talk to, that’s what I want to do for them — just a little encouragement, see if we can’t allay some of the pressure that they’re feeling.”

Bradsher said she can be reached at 325-800-7128. “If they need to talk to somebody that’s what I do for a living,” Bradsher said.

Hudson said the community’s response to the supply drive was refreshing after hearing stories about fights over toilet paper.

“So it’s refreshing to know we can put all those differences aside and be willing to help our neighbor,” Hudson said. “Because in reality we’re in this all together. What happens through the next couple of weeks or months, we’re in this together and it’s going to impact us all, because our small businesses are the heartbeat of not just Early, Brownwood, this whole area.

“It’s all of Texas — not just Texas, it’s nationwide. Your small businesses are the ones that you see on the back of people’s jerseys, at your events, and that’s going to have an impact on all of us. I’m a firm believer in supporting local and buying from your local people because they’re the ones that are there to help you out in time of need.”