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Pigeon Center vandalized by intruders

Vandals broke into the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center on Feb. 25 and destroyed at least $2,500 worth of food. Donated photo Vandals broke into the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center on Feb. 25 and destroyed at least $2,500 worth of food. Donated photo

A broken window, classrooms in shambles, irreplaceable items destroyed, kitchen coolers left open and perishable food thrown all over the floors — that’s what Tausha and Lynn Forney walked in to find last week at the Pigeon Community Multicultural Development Center in Waynesville. 

The Pigeon Center was broken into and vandalized on Feb. 25, and about $2,500 worth of food was destroyed. That food is what the nonprofit relies on to feed 20-25 local children dinner at least twice a week. This is the second big blow to the Pigeon Center following a kitchen fire that occurred in January. 

“As hard as we try to work for the community this latest news is devastating,” Tausha Forney wrote in a Facebook post on Monday. “After the fire last month we had finally began to make progress on the cleanup, then last week we found a broken window that lead to a grand disaster.”

Waynesville Police Department responded to the scene and is asking for the community’s help in trying to identify suspects while they conduct an investigation. Detectives said the suspect(s) received a cut on their hand or arm while breaking in. 

While the fire was deemed an accident, there are many in the community who believe the vandalism was a targeted hate crime against a community nonprofit that strives to strengthen harmony among all residents of Haywood County while promoting inclusiveness. The nonprofit runs many programs for children, seniors and veterans out of its old school building that served African-American elementary school students before desegregation in 1967.

“The damage was senseless, wasteful, thoughtless and heartbreaking. Irreplaceable items passed to us from community members smashed, the kids’ summer fun suitcase destroyed, closed and packed boxes rifled through and thrown around the room,” Forney said. “As terrible as it sounds it looked worse and the best was yet to come. In the soot-covered kitchen we found disaster on top of disaster. Our freezers had been opened and the contents pitched on top of the ashes. What had not been tossed had been left ruined in the open doors of the freezers.”

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As the police department began its investigation, Forney said there wasn’t much else she and her mother Lynn Forney, the director of the Pigeon Center, could do but to shut the empty freezers, board up the broken the window, step over the mess and walk away shaking their heads.

Despite the second major setback of the year, Tausha said they will move forward and continue their important work as they restore the historic building. Staff was already in the process of cleaning up the mess left from the fire to get ready for their summer enrichment program for students but now they have to start all over. 

Volunteer groups are needed to adopt rooms that weren’t as impacted by the fire for cleaning, painting and getting them set up for the summer. The final space that will be welcome for volunteers is organizing the Christmas decorations, storing them and organizing the storage space. This can only be completed after work by the professionals has come further along. The center is also in need of donations of cleaning supplies and food.

This week donation drop off will be from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Francis Cove United Methodist, Crymes Cove Road, Waynesville. Ingles Markets has also set up donation bins at both Waynesville locations. 

To sign up to volunteer for cleanup, call 828.452.7232.

If you have any information regarding this incident, contact Det. Holland at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 828.456.5363.

 

Want to give? 

Here is a list of cleaning items the Pigeon Center needs:

Magic Erasers, Clorox, cleaning gloves, 13-gallon trash bags, four 13-gallon trash cans, Clorox cleanup, Dawn dish detergent, white vinegar gallons, Mr. Clean cleaner and disinfectant, empty spray bottles, paper towels 

cleaning rags, two 5-gallon cleaning buckets, two 8x10 or 10x12 area rugs for classrooms (ask for further details)

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