Community pride erases vandalism at Spencer-Penn

September 7, 2011

By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer

After graffiti was painted on the Spencer-Penn Centre recently, volunteers came together to remove it and save the center a lot of money in the process.

Vandals spray-painted graffiti on the upper wall of the Alumni Hall at the center on July 7. The graffiti covered 70 feet of the wall, the whole length of the gym, according to Mary Jordan, volunteer executive director at Spencer-Penn Centre.

After the graffiti was discovered, the damage was reported to the center’s insurance company, which gave the center quotes for removing the graffiti as high as $6,000 with a $1,000 deductible, Jordan said.

She added, “$1,000 is a lot of money to a nonprofit.”

Once the center volunteers heard the cost estimates, they thought, “We can do this ourselves,” said Ben Robertson, who has been a Spencer-Penn volunteer for 16 months.

“We (the center) were willing to pay the deductible, but they (the volunteers) stepped up,” Jordan said.

The volunteers began researching how to best remove the graffiti without damaging the brick on the former school building. Robertson said he found a product in an aerosol can that is designed for graffiti removal.

He tried it out on a small section of the building, and “it worked so we went with it,” he said.

The volunteers began working to remove the graffiti Aug. 29, using the remover and a pressure washer to clean the building. They hope to finish up Sept. 12 after the weather clears, according to Jordan.

As of Tuesday, 95 percent of the graffiti had been removed, according to Jack Turner, who has been a volunteer at the center for six years.

Jordan calls the volunteers jacklegs because they know something about every trade, she said.

“The jacklegs have been so faithful and have saved us so much money,” Jordan said. “We could not be where we are today if not for them.”

The center got to keep the $1,000 that would have been used toward the deductible because the labor is all volunteer, the center already had a pressure washer and not much money was spent on the removal product, according to Turner.

However, now the center will need to invest in security cameras due to this incident, Jordan said. She added that the incident was reported to police and if suspects are identified, the center will press charges against them.

Although most of the graffiti has been removed, the vandalism still has many at the center upset.

“As hard as the volunteers have worked trying to renovate the building, it broke many hearts when the vandals decided to hurt the building with their ‘artwork,’” Jordan said.

“They’ve put a lot of work into that place and then people do this in no regard” for the hard work that has been done, Robertson said.

“I was totally disgusted; it was totally uncalled for,” Turner said.

The “jacklegs” who helped remove the graffiti are Jack Turner, John Rodgers, Ben Robertson, Thomas Vontour, Benford Hylton, Bill Smith, Rabbit Jordan, Carl deHart, Jim Purcell, Jerry Hylton, Jake Hoyle, Jimmy Miles and Jackie Denny.

The volunteers either were up on the roof scrubbing off the graffiti, on the ground handing up materials or watching to make sure everyone was safe while on the roof, according to Jordan.

“The jacklegs show the old American spirit. You have pride in taking care of what you love,” she said.

“This is a very strong community, and we don’t like people messing around,” Robertson said. “It’s very personal.”


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