News 4 is looking back on what has changed in the year since the Tops mass shooting. Tune in at 1 p.m. Sunday for a special report as we reflect on what we’ve lost, what we’ve learned, and how we continue to heal. See our latest coverage here.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — In the days following the racist attack at Tops on Jefferson Avenue on May 14, 2022, the community came together in a massive show of support for the victims, their families and the community.
Once the shock of the unbelievable became a reality, corporate citizens were quick to react. Less than 24 hours after the massacre, Scott Bieler of the West Herr Automotive Group donated $300,000 to be given directly to the victims families and survivors.
“I got a call from Mr. Bieler at 8 a.m. on Sunday morning saying he wanted to do something, he wanted to do something for the families of those who had been killed and those who had been hurt and he wanted it to be immediate,” said Rhonda Fredrick of West Herr Automotive Group. “We were able to get togther with this incredible generous donationa dn meet with all of the families in a short period of time and give them money they needed for whatever they needed. Scott did not care what it was for as long as it got directly into their hand and very quickly.
Frederick believes that there were many lessons learned from the tragedy.
“How important the community is. How important it is to stick together and all the beautiful things that have happened on Jefferson Avenue since then. I’m sorry we have memorials and tributes, but we’ve got to keep this alive until we can be a better society,” she said.
Another massive response came from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. Dr. Michael Edbauer is the leader of Highmark and is proud of his employees’ response.
“Some of it was boxing up food, some of it was helping to collect food and later on it was diapers for children, just really being in the community. Over time it got a little more planned out, helping with mental health services that was required in the community,” Dr. Edbauer said.
Besides the $400,000 given to the 5/14 Fund, one of the victims retired from Highmark. So they set up a $20,000 scholarship fund in the name of Katherine Massey.
Another huge response came from the Buffalo Bills and the NFL.
“I feel blessed that we could use our platform to do such good work in our community it’s a special place,” said Michelle Roberts, who runs the Buffalo Bills Foundation. “No one comes together like Western New York does. Everyone loves their Bills and the way they respond to our team was beyond anything we ever expected.”
She gives a lot of credit to the non-profits on the east side who worked hard to make sure people had food and other provisions.
“They worked tirelessly to make sure the community was served. I don’t know if anyone worked harder than those on the east side,” she added.
Wegman’s also made a massive donation. $400,000 to the 5/14 Fund. But the employees wanted to do even more.
“We mobilized our own employees, we felt compelled by what happened, we really wanted to be out there, helping and serving the community,” said Michele Mehaffy, who works for Wegmans.
The mass shooting, as tragic as it was, taught us an important lesson.
I really do think it ‘s the recognition that unfortunately there is still to much hate, too much racism and take a more proactive steps to say how to we address it, and move forward,” Dr. Edbauer said. “We just can’t keep doing what we did before, it’s not working we have to do something different.”
Don Postles is an award-winning anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1993. See more of his work here.