Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
Local officials announced the opening of a family assistance center at the Camping World Stadium for those affected by the mass shooting at Orlando's gay nightclub Pulse.
Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs say the center opens Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. on West Church Street.
“Our hearts goes out to you,” Dyer says at a press conference. “We are here to support you in any way we can.”
The city says help will be available to "family members of the deceased; those suffering physical and emotional injuries; club staff and patrons and others directly impacted by this tragedy," according to a press release. Services include: air travel, child and family services, consulate services, counseling and spiritual care, crime victim services, funeral help, transportation, health care assistance, identification documents, language translation services, legal aide, lodging, medical examiner services and senior help.
The city has also opened the OneOrlando fund
to help raise money for victims' families and will provide burial plots at Greenwood Cemetery to the 49 victims for free.
The local community is also preparing for a possible appearance by the Westboro Baptist Church, an anti-gay group that pickets funerals. On Wednesday, the group tweeted, "We have a Bible message for #Orlando and we can't wait to share it!"
Jacobs says law enforcement are on alert, and that this is an opportunity for the community to reevaluate how we treat those who feel differently than we do. She adds she's seen a transformational change in how Central Florida's churches respond to the LGBTQ community.
"What each citizen can do is they can search in their own heart and soul and think about whether or not they are treating everyone in this community with love and compassion and understanding," she says. "It is a call for our entire community to rally behind what we believe in— and that's love and compassion. Tolerance is not sufficient. We need to cherish our differences, and we need to cherish our people."
Terry DeCarlo, of GLBT Community Center of Orlando, says the community has really turned out by providing the center with food and water. They don't need those supplies anymore, but are now looking for grocery gift cards to provide to victims' families for their immediate needs.
"I'm getting messages from around the world saying, 'We love you, we're standing with you,'" DeCarlo says. "It's just be absolutely amazing, really, the outpouring of love."
The Family Assistance Center at Camping World Stadium will be open:
- Wednesday, June 15, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Thursday, June 16, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Friday, June 17, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Saturday, June 18, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
- Sunday, June 19, 12 p.m. to 8 p.m.
If you need more information, visit the center's page here
or call 407-246-4357.