Residents of Belleville, Ont. gathered Friday for an event designed to help them recover from the horrific events that have gripped the community in recent months.

The "healing event" got underway shortly after noon in the market square, just steps from the courthouse where Russell Williams pleaded guilty to two murders, two sexual assaults and dozens of break and enters and thefts earlier this week.

Belleville resident Hazel Lloyst, who planned the event, told CTV News Channel she sees it as a starting point for the town's recovery.

It will also be an opportunity for residents to show their support for the families of Williams' victims, many of whom sat through court this week as his crimes were detailed.

"We are going to start the healing process, we are going to join hands. We've had offers of coffee and we've said 'No thank you.' We want people to have their hands free so they can reach out to the person next to them," Lloyst told CTV News Channel.

She said the online response was "absolutely wonderful" in the lead-up to the event.

"We want to offer support to all the family members. We want to offer support to our armed forces," she said. "Everyone has been so affected by this."

Representatives from city council, police and the CFB Trenton military were expected to attend.

The event began with the singing of the national anthem. People joined hands in a circle, with words and music from a minister who specializes in grief counselling.

Jessica Lloyd's brother Andy thanked the crowd, saying that he was "glad everybody showed up.

"It's one step in the healing process for the whole community," he said. "My sister would definitely be proud of this event."

Other residents reflected on how the former Air Force colonel had changed their community.

Doug Mattis said Williams' crimes have "put a lot of people more on guard.

"I know myself, as a parent, my older daughters go out and I stop and think ‘where are they? What are they doing?'" he said.

Lloyst began to plan the gathering on Wednesday after posting a message on Facebook. She had been following Williams' case in the news and "it was shattering me," she said.

"I needed to reach out for help so I couldn't even comprehend what the families were going through if it had that effect on me," Lloyst said.

"So at four in the morning I posted a Facebook message saying let's symbolically reach out and join hands. And then (a friend) said let's do more than that, let's come together publicly, join hands and show our support."

People quickly began to rally behind the idea, she said.

On Thursday, Belleville Police Chief Cory McMullan said that although Williams had violated the trust placed in him by residents of the area, the community would eventually heal.

"There's been a very significant betrayal, especially with the position he held. The community won't be the same, but it is a very strong community and we're going to work together," she said on the steps outside of court after Williams was sentenced.

He received two life sentences with no chance of parole for 25 years and has begun serving out his sentence at Kingston Penitentiary.