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Committee receives support for park chapel

April 27, 2017
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Two special presentations took center stage at Monday's Austintown Township trustee meeting.

Both involved supporting the restoration and protection of 9/11 Memorial Park on Raccoon Road.

At the beginning of April, 9/11 Memorial Park Committee co-chair Pat Connolly taped off the park's chapel, closing it the public after mounting acts of vandalism.

For the fourth time, the white clapboard park chapel needed a new door after it was broken off the hinges, and Connolly reported interior damage including people putting cigarettes out in the pews and carpets, evidence of illegal drug use, vulgar messages in the guestbook and obscene items left behind.

Connolly first asked township trustees for help.

Trustee Jim Davis then began calling people he knew to raise money for restorations and additional security.

"He really went to bat for us," Connolly said.

While Connolly said he hates the idea of putting surveillance cameras up at a place of prayer, the desecration is just too much to let go.

Police Chief Robert Gavalier said officers were driving by the Raccoon Road park frequently, but cameras would be a helpful tool to find and prosecute the bad actors.

Davis said raising at least $20,000 would pay to pave more of the parking lot, pay off another new door, install security cameras and support maintenance of the park.

Over the past few weeks, the support continued to grow and some of that was presented at the Monday township meeting, where Vienna fire Chief Richard Brannon addressed trustees about his department's 9/11 Memorial.

"Our memorial was a two-year process to build," he said. "To have these artifacts in Vienna and Austintown is like being able to touch history. When we heard what happened here we immediately wanted to help."

Brannon gave the 9/11 Memorial Park Committee a check for $700 to help with the restoration.

The second presentation was made by Kevin Santelli, general manager, and Dan Miller, security technology consultant, of Guardian Protective Services. The two donated a security camera system and a Neighborhood Crime Watch sign for the park.

Davis said when he put the word out that help was needed to restore the park, the community came together.

One of the contacts he made was Barry Dyngles on Raccoon Road, less than a mile south of the park. The restaurant, Davis said, agreed to hold a collection for the park during its 50-50 drawings.

"(Barry Dyngles) raised $284, and two bricks were sold for the park," Davis said. "The owner ... felt $284 was not enough, so he kicked in enough to bring it up to $2,500."

Davis said the recent donations helped the committee stay on track to reaching its goal. He said he can accept donations at 330-518-7067. Individuals who would like to buy a brick or bench in exchange for a donation can pick up the form in a mailbox in the parking lot of the park, 1051 S. Raccoon Road.

Tips about the vandals can be submitted anonymously to the Austintown Police Department at 330-799-9721.

Connolly said people who want to help pull weeds in the park gardens can contact 330-718-2345.

"For anyone with cabin fever, come to 9/11 park and help out," he said. "We have a weed pulling event, and all weeds are free."

On a different matter, Shawne Wilfong spoke about the Austintown Night Out, which has been scheduled for Aug. 1. This is the fifth year for the event and to help raise funds for it, a Trash and Treasure flea market and sale has been planned for May 20 at Austintown Township Park.

Spaces are $10 each on a first-come, first-served basis. For those interested, call 330-774-1803 or email AustintownNightOut@gmail.com.

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