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Lafayette nonprofit celebrates groundbreaking of memorial for theater shooting victim

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LAFAYETTE -

TownFolk, a Lafayette nonprofit organization, hosted a festival and groundbreaking for their Victory Garden Pavilion, which will serve as a permanent memorial for Jillian Johnson, who was killed in the Grand Theatre shooting in 2015.

"We tried to keep within the vision that she had," said one of the founding board members, Giselle Menard.

Before Jillian's death, she had a vision for a community garden, one that her fellow TownFolk members would later complete.

"Her concept of a community garden was the community who lives here can come here. They can work if they want; they don't have to. We'll feed you," said Menard. The organization has a weekly fresh produce market to residents of the LaPlace neighborhood.

"We decided we were going to try to bring that vision to life as best we could, so we built that garden in the fall of 2015, and now, we're getting to a point where we're getting ready to put the pavilion in," said Jennifer Doucet, the president of the organization.

Finding a spot to plant the garden in Jillian's LaPlace neighborhood was difficult at first since many of the lots were adjudicated properties.

"So, we ended up, right when she passed away, somebody came to us and said, 'We want to do the garden here,' and you know, like they say, the stars just lined up," said Menard.

And now, they are adding a pavilion.

"This is just the crowning piece that's left to put our pavilion as a memorial to her," said Menard.

Jillian's father was also able to be at the groundbreaking for the pavilion on what would have been her 36th birthday.

And for the members, this garden has transcended their expectations

"It's not only a garden that we planted for people in the community; this is what the concept of the garden came to be. And it meant a community coming together for the common good of everybody, no matter the color," said TownFolk board member Amy Dalcour.

"This is an event that really is created out of a lot of love and respect for Jillian, for her family, for the community, for this neighborhood," said Doucet.

From this, they are leaving a legacy through the life of the Victory Garden.

"You know its bittersweet; it is," reminisced Menard.

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