After a pride flag was reportedly stolenand burned from St. Mark's Church in Los Olivos, community members and local leaders gathered Wednesday to show their solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
Wednesday morning, more than 100 people ranging from families with small kids to local businesses that closed early for the occasion gathered at the Los Olivos church to see a new pride flag be raised.
Those we spoke to say they were heartbroken when they heard what happened to the previous pride flag. They tell KSBY they walked away from the event with a hopeful outlook on their sense of belonging in the Santa Ynez Valley.
"I was immediately nauseous and I started crying." recalled Buellton resident, Maclaine Watson when she learned the flag at St. Mark's was stolen.
"It definitely wasn't the first time I have heard of a pride flag being stolen. But every time a flag is stolen, I feel fear. I feel disappointment and I feel frustration." added President and Founder of local nonprofit, Rainbow House Inc.
In response, leaders in the Santa Ynez Valley stepped in to take action.
"Safe and free in SYV! Safe and free in SYV!" chanted community members as a new pride flag was raised into the air.
"We are all in this valley together. Supportive of one another, able to count on one another," said Santa Barbara County District 3 Supervisor, Joan Hartman.
"Everyone has to be at least safe from threat and intimidation; and then also embraced and encouraged. We all participate," stated Reverend of St. Mark's Church, Randall Day.
Ahead of Wednesday's event, organizers said they anticipated as few as 30 people stopping by to see the new flag. Instead, came the masses.
"Little flags, big flags. Look! Everyone is coming!" said Solvang resident, Telma Garcia.
"It makes me feel really supported and loved. I am just so happy that we were able to get this response. I feel, just really safe here." Maclaine Watson told KSBY.
"To come today and see so many people here willing to stand with us really makes me, as a member of the queer community, feel seen and acknowledged and really understood," admitted Cavalli. "It gives me hope for my children to remain in that position of being seen and respected."
He says the response has fueled Rainbow House Inc.'s goals of expanding resources for local members of the LGBTQ+ community.
"What my husband and I are hoping to do is to create an actual resource center where you can come for STD testing, you can come for pregnancy testing, you can come to receive therapy 24/7 from a certified therapist," Cavalli said optimistically.
In the days since the pride flag was burned, businesses in Los Olivos have also begun donning pride flags outside of their storefronts to show support.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office says their investigation into the case is now over. It will now move on to the District Attorney's Office, where future charges and a possible arrest of those responsible may take place. They also say they were unable to make any arrests since the crime was considered a misdemeanor, and that they were not present when it happened.