Burglars who broke into a brand new child care center in east San Antonio got away with almost everything of value, but they did not break the spirit of the community.
On Saturday, neighbors and friends turned out in force to support a woman who just invested her life savings to build a dream. The Books and Bibs Child Care and Learning Academy at 3136 East Commerce staged a grand opening celebration less than a month ago.
Three weeks after opening for business, owner Stephanie Gray said that she arrived before daybreak to find disarray and missing electronics.
"I turned on the light and I was like, 'Oh my God, somebody has been in here!'" Gray recalled.
Gray said that she called police for help and left the building until officers arrived and secured the area.
Less than 30 minutes after discovering the burglary, Gray said that children started arriving at the center and she is grateful that she was able to provide services even though valuable items had been stolen.
Gray said that while she is relieved the thieves did not vandalize or damage the center, it has been a struggle to recover from the loss while trying to establish her new venture.
“I thought it would be a $10,000 or $15,000 total project, including furniture and getting the building ready, and I'm past double that. So my savings account is low and I haven't turned a profit, of course, because I've only been open three weeks,” Gray noted.
Gray says that she grew up in a public housing development nearby and calls the friend and fundraising effort a real blessing.
“I was so thrilled because I grew up down the street, like, I'm a product of the east side and the east side is me. And so to have a center here, I thought, was the best of both worlds because I'm in a place where I can give back and help people at the same time, plus have a business,” Gray said. “It is the best of three worlds now because people are helping me, I'm helping them, like, it's all together so it's great. It's great."
“It's important for us to be there for each other every day and it's amazing how something as small as this can lift someone's spirits, can put them in a different mindset to say, 'I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep pushing,'” said Nneka Cleaver of Tha1Radio, one of the fundraiser's organizers.
Cleaver also said that support from District 2 Councilman William Cruz Shaw has been an important boost as well as support from the non-profit San Antonio for Growth on the Eastside. Cleaver said this is a time of positive change in the area.
“We have a growing percentage of people who say, 'I am ready to make a difference and I am ready to get out there in that community.' So to see this, it's amazing. I am so happy that people know the importance of being there for each other in hard times,” Cleaver said.
“I've never been in a position where I needed people to help me, so it's very different for me but it's emotional," said Gray as she talked about the emotional impact of the assistance she's received. "I'm just happy to have people in my corner, for the babies.”
If you would like to help with Gray’s recovery effort, check out the official Facebook page of the Books and Bibs Child Care Center and Learning Academy.
Organizers say that donations can also be made via PayPal to BooksAndBibs@Yahoo.com.