U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords made her final public appearance in Tucson as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives today, in a visit to the new Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona.
The new center was built after Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, asked the public to make donations to the food bank in the days after the shooting, knowing it was one of her favorite charities. More than $325,000 came in and were used to make the center, which connects people to resources beyond the bank's short-term food supplies, said food bank CEO Bill Carnegie.
"We’re certainly honored to be known as one of Gabby’s favorite charities, she’s certainly our favorite member of Congress, and we’re going to miss her when she’s not our representative," he said.
People were happy to see her in one of few public appearances in Tucson since the January 8, 2011 shooting that left her facing intensive speech and physical therapy to recover from a gunshot to the head.
Giffords, accompanied by her chief of staff Pia Carusone and shooting survivor and Tucson district office manager Ron Barber, walked into the Food Bank to shouts and applause from dozens of well wishers about 12:20 p.m.
But there was a note of sadness at the event as well, as they acknowledged her five years of service in Congress were coming to an end.
“I’m heartbroken, but I think she needs to take care of herself and I think she’ll be back in some capacity in the next year or two,” said Julie Evans, a Giffords' campaign volunteer in 2006, 2008 and 2010.
While the food bank visit was her final event in the district before she leaves office, she'll have one more public appearance. Giffords plans to attend the State of the Union address in Washington Tuesday.