A community hub that helps some of the city’s most vulnerable has been vandalised for the second time in 18 months.
Heartless vandals scaled the 8ft spiked wall surrounding Holbrooks community garden, attached to the community centre, and left a trail of destruction.
The immaculately kept community garden was smeared with white paint, tools were stolen, countless pots and ornaments were smashed, and tables and chairs overturned or damaged beyond repair.
For more than 20 years, the community centre, which is overseen by Holbrooks Community Care Association has taken care of local families, and over lockdown and over the school holidays this has continued.
It is a blow for local people, as the centre supports some of the most under privileged families, with the area of Holbrooks sitting in the top 30% of deprived neighbourhoods in the UK.
From children’s activity sessions, to hot meal distributions, to providing free breakfast packs for families, many city children will have walked through the doors of this vital community space.
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The devastating discovery was made by Holbrooks ward councillor, Rachel Lancaster, on Wednesday September 2, as she went to unlock the premises to show a member of the City of Culture neighbourhood team around.
In a public Facebook post, Cllr Lancaster describe it as “the centre which has been organising food to our most deprived people in our community throughout the whole of lockdown. What a way to repay them.”
Speaking to CoventryLive, Cllr Lancaster said: “It was a bit of a shock really, I was meeting a representative of City of Culture wanting to take them around the area, showing them how we can be involved with everything, and I opened the door to a garden because it’s a lovely nice place we use for activities, and found it completely trashed.
“All of the children’s equipment has been stamped on with their heels, they’ve thrown white paint all over the floor, they’ve just kicked things, smashed up all of the plant pots that all of the children have planted.
“It was upsetting to open the door.”
From public toilets to community hub
Holbrooks community centre started life as a burnt out public toilet block, which was refurbished by the community in 1996. It has since been extended, and funded to run as a community hub.
At the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, the hub delivered 130 meals each week, as well as food parcels and hygiene packs.
Cllr Lancaster said: “The garden was funded by the bags for life Tesco fund so people in this community voted for the money to go to it being a garden, it [acts as] an extension of our Holbrooks library, we have storytelling and arts and crafts in the garden. It’s really centred around children in the community, so to have someone come in and do that, it does make you feel demoralised.”
The centre currently operates on a reduced schedule with team members going in once a week.
The vandalism was discovered on Wednesday September 2, but it could have taken place anytime from Wednesday August 26 to the evening of Tuesday September 1.
The community association was flooded with offers to help and well wishes from gutted locals.
West Midlands Police neighbourhood sergeant Robert Mackay, said: “This was a truly senseless act of vandalism and criminal damage; children’s play equipment was broken and paint thrown around. Gardening equipment was also taken from a shed.
“We have conducted local enquiries and looking to see if any CCTV cameras captured the offenders nearby. The damage was reported to us on Wednesday (2 Sept) but we believe it could have occurred at any point over the last week.
“If anyone has any information, or suspects they know who is responsible, then please get in touch with us so we can take action.”
Anyone with information can message West Midlands Police on Live Chat at the website or call us 101. Quote crime number 20CV/210170Q/20
The centre have invited any volunteers, or people with donations of plants or garden materials to contact them on: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to donate to their efforts to purchases a security system you can send money to the community centre’s PayPal on: email@example.com
If anyone has any information, they can quote crime reference number to West Midlands police: 20CV/210170Q/20