With the largest patch of green grass for children to play on in its southeast Wichita neighborhood and programs designed to assist families in need, Pilgrim Congregational Church wants to be a magnet for the surrounding area.
Over the past several weeks, however, the church near Harry and Woodlawn has become a target instead.
Vandals have broken windows with rocks and shot holes in glass with BB guns, creating an expensive headache for church leaders.
“It’s disheartening,” said David Robbins, a member of the church at 6000 E. Harry and president of the Fabrique Neighborhood Association. “They’ve done quite a bit of damage.”
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No graffiti or gang signs have been left behind, Robbins said, leaving him to think it isn’t a hate crime targeting the church.
“I’ve been the target of a hate crime” in the past, Robbins said. “This isn’t a hate crime.”
Rather, he said, it may be “a misguided youth” or group. Wichita police have been working with church leaders to develop tactics to catch those responsible, Robbins said.
Windows in the church’s community center, the regional headquarters, a two-car garage and the church structure itself have all been damaged by rocks or BBs, he said. Replacing badly damaged windows has cost several hundred dollars so far, and church officials are hoping a clear resin will be enough to patch up some of the holes.
The sanctuary’s stained glass windows have been spared so far.
Police records indicate several incidents of vandalism have occurred over the past couple of months.
“The repairs are taking money that would be used for our outreach programs,” Robbins said.
Those programs include activity days for children and a monthly food distribution for families. Last weekend saw 60 families come to the food distribution, Robbins said, which is more than ever before.
Such numbers tell him the economy still hasn’t recovered, he said, and that many families are struggling. After many years of decline, Robbins said, the church’s congregation is growing again thanks to families with young children. That makes catching the vandals particularly important, he said.
“We want this to be a safe place to come” for children and their families, Robbins said.