KINSTON, N.C. — A local AIDS support group took its message of hope into a Kinston community and built two gardens for inner-city kids.
But it did not take long for vandals to uproot that gift.
The gardens offered a peaceful place for children to play in the middle of one of Kinston's older housing projects.
"It is even more beautiful than what we imagined," project organizer Ronni Brantley said.
Brantley leads a local HIV and AIDS support group called A Circle of Friends. With help from the Boy Scouts, they spent last weekend creating the gardens. Neighbors said the project was a gift.
"Oh, it's beautiful," neighbor Cherice Fisher said. "I thought it was wonderful because, I mean, you don't see much being done out here, and now, maybe we will have the kids look at something positive."
But less than two days after the gardens were finished, vandals tore out all of the benches and crushed many of the flowers. The damage topped $1,000.
"I was devastated," Brantley said. "I just broke down and cried. We worked so hard for these children."
Said Fisher: "It made me very upset because I saw how hard those people were working."
The Circle Of Friends spent more than 120 hours planning and building the gardens. They said they are ready to give however many more hours it takes to fix them up.
"If I let somebody who does not care about it destroy it, I am proving to these children we don't care enough to come back," Brantley said, and that's not an option."
Brantley hopes police catch the vandals. In the meantime, neighbors say they will keep a closer watch, so that the new peaceful place has a chance to blossom for the children.
The group plans to rebuild within a few weeks. They hope people in the community will donate money to help make it happen.