LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY)– Community leaders and church members shared their disappointment after finding Gethsemane Church of God in Christ Community Center on Twelfth Street broken into and vandalized Sunday night.
The community center provides food, clothes, and furniture are given free of charge to residents of the community.
Carlos Harvin, the Chief of Minority Affairs for the Lafayette Consolidated Government, said he was distressed when he got a call from Bishop Gatlin. He added that the Gethsemane church has done a lot for the community for somebody to come and disrespect and disregard the place is “ridiculous.”
Church members came to the center on Monday to find the gymnasium floors destroyed, and many windows and doors broken. Food was sprayed on the first floor. The clothes pantry was disorganized, and clothes were everywhere. On the third floor there was a Pucci percussion drawing on the chart board, damaged drums and more.
Vanessa Gatlin, the First Lady of Gethsemane Church of God in Christ, said this goes beyond just vandalism.
“It goes beyond just writing things, graffiti,” she said. “It goes beyond upsetting things and clothes, just throwing them all around. It goes beyond that, but it goes to somebody missed some home teaching.
“Somebody missed somebody teaching them that we are looking out for each other. We are our brother’s keeper, our sister’s keeper.”
The church members say they do not know who did the damage, but they know there are children in the neighborhood who are not going to school, running around all day long and getting into trouble.
Church members report dealing with someone damaging the community center three or four times before the Sunday incident. This time it was more extensive as all three floors were damaged.
“They [the pastor and first lady] said not to call the police. They said not to do anything to anybody.” said Devon Norman, program director at the community center. “We’re just going to keep helping the people, but how many times can we just keep helping without there being any support from the community and law enforcement and those that can help us keep it together?
“Our leaders have made it to where we have the ability to serve the community at no cost to them. No program that is run in this community center costs the community anything.”
City officials are ready to stand behind the church and work to get permanent cameras to deter some of the crime, according to Harvin.
“We don’t want this community to be afraid because Lafayette police need the partnership with this community,” he said. “Somebody knows who did this, and so we need them to be courageous and come forward, and we want to help these young people who are misguided, misdirected. This center is here to help them and guide them in a positive direction.”
He suggested there is help with the mayor’s office, the Lafayette Consolidated Government and pastors in Lafayette, along with many groups that want to help the Bishop of the church strengthen the community.
“We know law enforcement has a role to play, but we know that the community has another role to play. We’re partners, and this is really what community policing is all about,” Harvin said.
“We’re going to pray and ask God to touch the hearts of the people that are doing this that they will understand this is the house of the Lord,” Gatlin said.
You can help the church by sending donations via CashApp at $Gcogiclafayette. If you know anything regarding the case, call the Lafayette Police Department or Lafayette Crimestoppers at (337)-232-TIPS.