Vandals hit Camp Howe, leave fingerprints

  • Executive Director Terrie Campbell in the camp’s recreational building. FRAN RYAN

  • Fingerprints left by vandals after ripping out the wall controls on the garage door of the recreational building at Camp Howe. FRAN RYAN

For the Gazette
Published: 10/3/2019 11:57:56 AM
Modified: 10/3/2019 11:57:46 AM

GOSHEN — Nestled in the woods of Goshen, Camp Howe is a spot beloved by many. When word got out that the camp had been recently vandalized, offers of help came pouring in from the local community, ex-campers and their families and current and former staff members from across the globe.

According to the camp’s executive director, Terrie Campbell, four camp properties — a recreation hall, boathouse, staff shack and youth cabins — were broken into on at least two different occasions.

The original break-in at the camp, which had been closed since the end of August, occurred on Sept. 20.

“The boathouse was broken into on Friday, fixed on Sunday and then broken into again on Tuesday,” Campbell said.

Vandals set off fire alarms, cut electrical wires, sprayed rooms with fire extinguishers and threw various pieces of equipment, including an automated external defibrillator, into the woods, lake and under buildings.

They also seriously damaged two garage doors on the large recreation hall, a building that had been fully renovated within the past 10 years.

“Basically, somebody had been up there three to four days in a row doing vandalism,” Goshen Police Chief Jeff Hewes said. “We called in the state police crime lab, and they came up last week and took fingerprints and collected evidence.”

In the recreation hall, the vandals ripped a garage control panel out of the wall and damaged both doors, and in doing so, left obvious black fingerprints all over the wall.

“It was all just really senseless stupid stuff, not anything that can’t be fixed, washed or replaced,” Campbell said. “It’s just that it takes time, money and people away from what they should be doing to deal with this.”

Currently, there are no suspects, Hewes said, and there has no activity at the camp since last Wednesday.

Offers of help

On Sept. 27, Campbell set up a GoFundMe page seeking $5,000 to help pay for damages to the camp. By Wednesday of this week, the fund had already surpassed its goal.

“We got donations from as far away as Belgium, Sweden, Hong Kong and England — mostly from people that have worked at the camp,” Campbell said.

On the camp’s Facebook page, one person offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could reveal the identities of the vandals.

“This is really a violation of a community resource,” Campbell said. “Some people called me and said, ‘I can’t afford to donate, but what else can I do to help?’”

Campbell said that staff from the nearby DAR State Forest, as well as Goshen police, have been driving by the camp to keep an eye on the property.

She also said that people living nearby have said that they would keep watch for any suspicious activity in the area.

Trying to remain upbeat with an eye toward the future, Campbell sees this not as a story of destruction, but more of a commentary on people coming together to help their community.

“The community has been amazing through all of this,” she said.

On Wednesday, most of the camp had been cleaned up, and Campbell was waiting for contractors and electricians to fix the garage doors on the recreation building.

She noted an American flag folded in a triangular box atop the mantle of a large stone fireplace.

“That was a gift from a former staff member who served in Afghanistan. One day it just came in the mail for us,” she said. “That is pretty special, so I am glad nothing happened to it. The rest we will fix, and move on.”

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