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Giffords winds up congressional duties with Food Bank visit

Congresswoman speaks with volunteers, tours center

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' last official act in her district was not a rousing speech to political supporters, nor a tearful resignation. Rather, she took a quiet tour of the good works others are doing in her honor.

In what her office said was her final Tucson act as a member of Congress, Giffords paid a visit Monday to the Food Bank family assistance center named for her.

Giffords, who announced Sunday that she would resign this week to focus on her recovery, quietly spoke with Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona staff and volunteers and toured the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center.

She made no public comment and took no questions from the press. Her staff and plain-clothes security kept reporters at a distance.

Giffords took a short tour of facility's warehouse, leaning on Food Bank CEO Bill Carnegie to steady her gait, which was affected when she was shot in the head on Jan. 8, 2011.

Carnegie pointed out pallets of cereal and peanut butter to Giffords as they walked through the warehouse.

"We're honored as the place where she came to say goodbye to her community," said Fran McNeely, chairwoman of the Food Bank's board.

"It's a bittersweet day," Carnegie said.

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Carnegie said the center was built with donations in Giffords' name received after the Jan. 8 shootings.

Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, released a statement shortly after the shooting, asking people to direct donations to the Food Bank, which he called his wife's favorite charity.

The board decided an assistance center was the best way to spend the funds to have a long-term impact on the community, he said.

"We've collected about $325,000 in Gabby's name," Carnegie said. "We're still collecting for the Gabrielle Giffords Hunger Fund."

The center, which opened Sept. 23, was established after people donated more than $215,000 to the Food Bank after the Jan. 8, 2011, shooting which killed six and wounded 13, including the congresswoman.

Earlier, she met with constituents in private gathering billed as a completion of the "Congress on Your Corner" event at which she was shot.

Giffords met with some of those who were present at the Northwest Side grocery store when the shooting rampage took place last year.

Photos of her hugging Daniel Hernandez, a former congressional intern credited with helping to save her life, and speaking with both retired Col. Bill Badger and Susan Hileman were posted on her Twitter feed Monday morning.

Badger, whose head was grazed by a bullet in the Jan. 8 attack that killed six and wounded 13, is one of those who helped tackled accused shooter Jared Loughner.

Hileman, who also was wounded in the attack, was the neighbor who brought 9-year-old Christina-Taylor Green to meet her congresswoman. Green was shot in the back and killed.

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Giffords also met with community leaders on Monday morning, said spokesman Mark Kimble.

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Mariana Dale/TucsonSentinel.com

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords tours the Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center with Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona CEO Bill Carnegie on Monday.