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Rock Hill church needs help to repair vandalized field

Church members Gene Gardner, foreground, and Steve Newlin, background, survey damage caused by a reckless driver last weekend on the recreation field at Friendship United Methodist Church. Church officials hope two upcoming events will help cover the cost of repairing the field.
Church members Gene Gardner, foreground, and Steve Newlin, background, survey damage caused by a reckless driver last weekend on the recreation field at Friendship United Methodist Church. Church officials hope two upcoming events will help cover the cost of repairing the field. Courtesy of Buffy Garner

The driver who caused three-inch-deep ruts in the recreation field of a Rock Hill church also left a dent in the small congregation’s budget.

An unknown motorist caused heavy damage to the field next to Friendship United Methodist Church on Neely Store Road early on the morning of May 10, digging up grass on much of the field, York County Sheriff’s deputies say. No arrests have been made, and church members are now trying to decide how to pay for repairs to the field – which not only hosts church events but is open for community use.

“It’s been happening for years; this is the worst it’s ever been,” said Randy Thompson, who oversees the church’s lawn maintenance teams. “It’s really disheartening to try to keep everything looking nice, and then somebody comes in and messes it up.”

The cost of repairing the damage could top $1,000, he said, and that’s if church members do the work themselves.

“We’ll have to get some dirt and fill in the ruts. Some of the ruts are 3 inches deep,” he said. “We’re a small church. We really can’t afford to pay a professional.”

The church will hold a community concert on the church lawn Saturday, featuring contemporary Christian artist Kyle Wilkinson, the worship pastor at New River Church in Lake Wylie.

Church officials planned to use donations from Saturday’s concert to pay for playground upgrades, including a new fence, said Thompson’s wife, Sara, but now they might direct funds toward field repairs.

“We didn’t raise quite enough money last year,” she said of the playground upgrades. “And then we had the vandalism.”

The church also will have a fish fry and chicken dinner – one of its larger fundraisers – with a bluegrass/gospel concert on June 27.

Randy Thompson said repairing the field during the summer will be difficult with high temperatures and possibly going days without rain.

Pastor Nellie Cloninger hopes the person responsible for the damage is sentenced to community service instead of jail, if arrested.

“I would want to say, ‘We hope you can enjoy our property without destroying it,’” she said, “‘and that you can respect our reasons for not wanting motorized vehicles in the grass areas, and that you would want to be a part of making this a wonderful place for the community to share.’”

Teddy Kulmala •  803-329-4082

Want to help?

Friendship United Methodist Church is hoping to raise money to help pay for damage inflicted on its field last week. Two fundraisers are scheduled:

▪ A community concert at 7 p.m. Saturday at the church, featuring contemporary Christian artist Kyle Wilkinson, the worship pastor at New River Church in Lake Wylie. The concert will include refreshments and a bounce house for children, and a “love offering” will be accepted.

▪ A fish fry and chicken dinner on June 27, featuring the bluegrass and gospel music of the Hinson Girls. Plates will be served from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and are $8 for adults and $6 for children. The Hinson Girls will perform at 7 p.m.

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