A Metro-East church is honoring a fallen police officer with a new building.

In Alton Sunday, the River of Life Family Church broke ground on the Blake Snyder Center. The facility is named after St. Louis County Officer Blake Snyder, who was shot and killed in the line of duty in October 2016.

Snyder grew up in Alton and Godfrey, and became involved in the church at a young age. He also served in youth ministry there before pursuing a career in law enforcement.

“He was a beautiful soul,” said Associate Pastor, Duane Vancil. “He served with me and my wife in student ministry for probably two to three years. We were honored to serve with him, we learned so much from him.”

Synder’s parents, Dick and Peggy Snyder, still attend the Alton church. They were at the groundbreaking ceremony Sunday and spoke about their son’s strong faith.

“The things he had to face when he became a police officer, I think he put on the full armor of God first,” his mother said. “I think that’s what made his passion and his love for people so fulfilling for him, because he was doing God’s work. And he was trying to serve and protect under God’s name, not only under his police badge.”

Church leaders said the Blake Snyder Center will be used for community outreach, with space for students, the arts, sports, and more.

“It was said at one of his dedications that love breeds love, and that’s certainly what he did,” Vancil said. “His heart was full of love and we’re excited to see that love continue to extend out into the community through this center.”

Several members of the Snyder family attended the groundbreaking ceremony, including the officer’s widow, Elizabeth, and young son, Malachi.

“I’m grateful that Malachi will grow up and absolutely know this church family as his own family as well,” Elizabeth told the crowd.

Those in attendance joined in song and prayer and released balloons into the air representing colors of police support: black and blue and white.

Church leaders said the Blake Snyder Center should open in Spring of 2018.