VALLEJO, Calif. - Vandals in Vallejo trashed a new community center that was getting ready to open its doors. It was a heartbreaking sight for the non-profit's founder, but the setback brought out some heartwarming support from neighbors.
Neighbors said it's a much-needed space, and they will not let this attack stop the center from opening. It was a community united: volunteers consisting of neighbors, parents, and elected leaders cleaned up the yet-to-be-opened resource center on Monterey Road that had been vandalized sometime between late Thursday night and early Friday morning.
"I was devastated. My husband called me and we immediately sharing it on Facebook," volunteer Patricia Flores said, who shared that the center will benefit her son and other children.
Word spread quickly about the damage to the new community center; someone splattered paint on the building and dumped garbage including a mattress at the front entrance.
"I don't like this, and if I can do something about it, and they set up a space so we can fix it, why not help?" said volunteer Nancy Wirt, who lives nearby.
The center is operated by Jameelah Hanif, founder of Watch Me Grow Inc, a nonprofit that focuses on helping families with services including after-school programs, job training, and employment workshops.
"I want to be that organization that we didn't have around. I want to strengthen our community. This is how we're going to do it," Hanif said.
Hanif had just gotten the keys to the building early last week, and it had been newly painted over the weekend.
But Friday morning around 7:45, she discovered the damage. She suspected the vandalism may be retaliation from people who had their vehicles towed along the block Thursday, mistakenly believing that she had reported them to the police.
"I didn't have anything to do with the police towing anybody," Hanif said.
Vallejo police said they're investigating this as a felony vandalism case. There is no surveillance video because cameras were being installed Friday, but a department spokesman said investigators have collected evidence at the scene that may lead them to whoever's responsible.
Hanif said she is resilient. She's determined to carry out her dream of helping families.
"When you show the community love, the community is going to show up and show love back. And I appreciate everybody," Hanif said.
She said the building will be repainted by this weekend, and the plan is to open the community center on time as scheduled: August 11.
In the meantime, a GoFundMe has been set up.
Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at Amber.Lee@Fox.com or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU, Instagram @AmberKTVU or Twitter @AmberKTVU.