A Thousand Oaks teen center pivoted from supporting shooting victims' families to sheltering fire evacuees

The Southern California city of Thousand Oaks was dealt two traumas in less than 24 hours: A ...

Posted: Nov. 10, 2018 6:55 AM
Updated: Nov. 10, 2018 6:55 AM

The Southern California city of Thousand Oaks was dealt two traumas in less than 24 hours: A fatal mass shooting at a bar's college night, followed by wildfires that threatened homes and lives in the area.

A particular city facility became a gathering place for people dealing with both.

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Early Thursday, the Thousand Oaks Teen Center, a city-funded recreation site for youths in grades 7-12, was the place where officials directed people for information about the shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill that left 12 dead.

Authorities used the site as a base where they tried to help worried family members and friends reunite with survivors. The center also was where some families learned their loved ones had died.

Grief counselors were there, helping friends and families of the victims, the center's recreation leader, Robby Williams, told CNN. The American Red Cross set up across the street, accepting donations to support victims' families.

Just a few hours later, the center found itself tackling another urgent need. The Hill and Woolsey wildfires started just to the city's west and east Thursday afternoon.

Early Friday, the city announced the teen center would be used as an evacuation shelter.

About 250 cots were set up in the gymnasium, Williams said. The center was at capacity Friday morning.

In a news conference at a different location Friday morning to update the public about the fire, Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks acknowledged that the community was reeling from heavy back-to-back hardships.

"This is a very stressful time. Many of our first responders haven't slept," she said.

"We are still reeling, but we're also very resilient."

The 14,000-square-foot teen center opened in 1989 and features a gymnasium, a computer lab and a game room, along with classrooms, offices and a catering kitchen, the center's Facebook page.

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