GILROY, Calif. - A "Resiliency Center” focused on community healing opened in Downtown Gilroy Tuesday, the same day marking six months since the deadly mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
Teddy bears and flowers still sit outside Christmas Hill Park, where three young people were shot and killed by a 19-year-old gunman in what the FBI classified an act of domestic terrorism.
"Every single time we drive by those gates at Uvas Park..to see..a reminder of the Gilroy Strong images that are there. It's interesting how you can kind of tuck some stuff away for a little while, but that doesn't help in the long-term," said Gilroy firefighter Jeff MacPhail.
MacPhail was at the festival when shots rang out.
With a focus on long-term mental and emotional health, community leaders Tuesday sent a message to the community that grief and trauma do not have a timeline.
Tuesday, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen hosted the opening of the "Gilroy Strong Resiliency Center" operated inside the Neon Exchange at 7365 Monterey Road in Downtown Gilroy.
"We don't want Gilroy to be defined by the tragedy that happened six months ago. We want people to know that Gilroy is a resilient and strong community," said Rosen.
The center is paid for through a federal grant and will offer community members free individual and group counseling, along with services such as art therapy for some of the youngest victims.
"Some of that will include meditation and yoga workshops to help them process through anxiety and PTSD and also some of their grief," said Kasey Halcon, the director of Santa Clara County’s Victim Services Unit.
"There were 1,000 kids under 18 who were present at the time of the shooting so as we talk about the community effects, it's also the effects on the children in the Gilroy community," said Assistant District Attorney James Gibbons-Shapiro.
35 pieces of art created by Santa Clara County high school students were featured at the center as part of a #GilroyStrong poster contest.
One has the message, "Strong today. Stronger tomorrow. Stronger together."
Drop-in counseling will be available at the center every Tuesday and Thursday between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Organizers plan to expand the services in the months ahead and expect the need to grow as the July 28 anniversary draws closer.