VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Sentara has partnered with the City of Virginia Beach to unveil the VB Strong Center.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday, October 29, at the new VB Strong Center in the Landstown commons Shopping Center in Virginia Beach, a safe space dedicated to providing community recovery and resiliency in the aftermath of the May 31 shooting.

Gov. Ralph Northam was present along with Virginia Beach Mayor Bobby Dyer and Sentara Healthcare President and CEO Howard Kern and Sentara Virginia Beach Hospital President Bernie Boone.

Mayor Dyer began his remarks citing the names of the 12 victims. “We are forever changed. The city has been rocked,” Dyer said.

The 7,000 square foot space was a former call center on the second floor above Firehouse Subs and Saladworks. It will be available for anyone in the community for therapy, yoga, daycare and a crisis hotline.

Dyer says the opening of the center is the city’s commitment to care for those affected by the massacre – both at the moment and in the aftermath.

“The people of Virginia Beach are committed to supporting all of the victims in perpetuity. We will never forget, we will never abandon you.”

Dyer says May 31st put Virginia Beach on the list of cities with other mass shootings – and this center will symbollize the community’s ability to come together when it could have been ripped apart.

Dyer says the community has been “the source of undeniable strength during a time of unspeakable loss.”

“It is our hope that the VB Strong Center will be a testament to the commitment of Virginia Beach to provide refuge to families, friends and neighbors as we heal,” said Governor Northam.

For Northam, the opening and ribbon cutting of the VB Strong center was a time of personal reflection and political passion.

He spoke of his eight years as a doctor in the Army, how he dealt with “a lot of tragedy. The tragedies are long lasting on the families and friends.”

And how the mass shooting that killed twelve people shattered Northam’s former hometown.

“Pam and I raised our family here. These gun tragedies are never easy but when it hits in your backyard it really gets your attention.”

But Northam also mentioned how he feels about the laws surrounding guns. He called a special session of the legislature less than two months after the massacre to address what he calls common sense gun legislation. Nothing was accomplished on Northam’s bills when republican lawmakers voted to adjourn. He says he’ll continue the fight.

“We lost 12 lives Here last year and in Virginia alone over 1000, over 1000 lives to gun violence,” said Northam. “I have been to enough funerals, enough vigils. Enough is enough.”

Some of the victims family members were here today but chose not to speak with the media. The center is wasting no time getting underway, with therapy sessions scheduled already for Monday.

The VB Strong Center will be open Monday through Friday during the following hours:

  • Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays – 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
  • Tuesdays, Thursdays – 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.

The public is invited to leave their mark on a canvas at the new center.