For an organization that wasn’t flush with funds, this incident hurts especially hard

by: JASON CHANEY/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Denise Ortiz-Campbell, the Center Coordinator for Prineville’s NeighborImpact Head Start facility shows the damage done to the front of the building.

When the Head Start students got off the bus, they noticed it right away.
   “It’s so sad that they threw paint at our building,” one child said. Another asked, “Why would someone do this to our building?”
   During the Veterans Day weekend, early last month, the Prineville NeighborImpact Head Start building was targeted by unknown vandals. They splattered the front of the building, windows, doorway, and concrete steps with white paint, and threw eggs and ketchup at another side of it.
   “They all took it . . . personally, because this is their place,” said Head Start Center Coordinator Denise Ortiz-Campbell.
   Head Start staff had no trouble cleaning up the eggs and ketchup, but the paint is harder and more expensive to clean. Because of financial struggles, they cannot afford to take care of it yet.
   “We’re struggling to stay up and running right now,” Ortiz-Campbell said.
   She went on to explain that other more pressing problems have recently taken away money that Head Start might have used for clean-up. For example, they had to replace their professional-grade dishwasher after it recently burned up.
   Prineville Police Captain Michael Boyd called the incident a big inconvenience, particularly for a program that does so much good for children. Head Start provides a free preschool service for low-income families throughout Central Oregon.
   “It is certainly an undeserving victim as much as anybody can be undeserving,” he said.
   This isn’t the first time that someone has vandalized the Prineville Head Start property. Toward the end of last school year, someone broke into the building and took their tricycles.
   “What it looked like was they had dragged them behind their vehicle,” Ortiz-Campbell said. “They were found in pieces — almost like they were run over too — underneath the bleachers (at nearby Ward Rhoden Stadium).”
   The Prineville Head Start facility had not faced any vandalism prior to these two incidents during the 10 years that Ortiz-Campbell has worked there. Because of them, she finds herself a bit on edge when she leaves the building unattended at the end of the day.
   “What’s going to happen to our little site next?” she wondered.
   For staff, the vandalism doesn’t register as more than an unsightly nuisance, and a reminder that some people make questionable decisions. Nevertheless, Ortiz-Campbell is saddened that the children have to deal with it, when they already face the challenges that limited income can create.
   “When you think about the kids who we serve, they have got enough bad things happening in their life,” she said. “This is their one good glimpse of the day. You get to come to a clean environment and play with nice things, and be treated with respect.”
   At this time, Prineville police have not found any suspects in either vandalism case. Boyd noted that sometimes in cases like these, the police find the suspect because they finally brag of their deeds to a friend.
   “We actually solve quite a few of them here, just because there are a lot of good people in the community who hear about it,” he said.
   Police are urging anybody with information about either vandalism incident to contact the Prineville Police Department, at 541-447-4168.
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