Community learning center in Detroit facing $20K in damages after early morning vandalism

Eden Gardens Community Enrichment Center
Posted at 5:45 PM, Apr 16, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Detroit police are investigating after thousands of dollars worth of materials were taken off a home on the city's east side early Monday morning.

The home, which is located on Glenfield Street just off of Gratiot Avenue, is currently being renovated to become the Eden Gardens Community Association Enrichment Center. The learning center has been in the works for a little more than a year. Prior to the renovation, the house was set to be demolished.

Eden Gardens Community Association Enrichment Center
A home set to be the site of the Eden Gardens Enrichment Center was vandalized on April 15, 2024.

Currently, volunteers with the community association use a pocket park and a community garden they built as spaces for teaching and enriching the children who attend their summer program. In the program, children are able to learn gardening, robotics, math, science and more and receive help with homework.

"From the first grade to the fourth grade, you learn to read, and the fourth grade on, you read to learn. So, if a child has not learned to read by the fourth grade, they fall behind. We want to fill that gap," said Karen Knox with the Eden Gardens Community Association. "During our summer program, we feed them breakfast, lunch and a snack. We’ll be able to do this year-round and it’s important to my heart because I know from working in the school district what teachers go through and what the children go through."

Eden Gardens Enrichment Center
Karen Knox with the Eden Gardens Community Association talks with 7 Action News reporter Whitney Burney after a learning center planned for children was vandalized in Detroit. (April 16, 2024)

After receiving grants and raising thousands of dollars on their own, the community association began working to renovate the blighted home.

Just as they inched closer to a hopeful May 15 launch date, a thief drove onto the grass and removed several recently installed windows, a screen door and one of the front doors before driving away with them. Knox says it will cost them around $20,000 to replace, and it's money they don't have.

7 Action News reporter Whitney Burney shows damage to the property in the video below:

VIDEO EXTRA: A look at some of the damage to the learning center

"I was just so angry because I said we have come so far and we were hoping to have this building open soon and for someone to come into our community and strip the windows off, it’s heartbreaking," Knoxs said. "Why are you attacking this when we’re trying to make the community better, trying to have a place for the children, a place for the seniors. A meeting place where we can talk about what we need to do, how we need to do it."

Surveillance video caught the suspect pulling in around 4:45 a.m. and leaving by 5:30 a.m. Knox says she's hopeful someone will recognize the driver and notify police.

Video below shows surveillance video of the suspect loading a vehicle with stolen items:

VIDEO: House camera captures person loading windows into vehicle

"We are looking at the problem that we want to help and here some adult comes and just tries to snatch the whole thing away," Knox said. "You took from children. How dare you? How dare you to take their dreams away? This is somewhere they can go where they can have something to eat, talk to people about their homework, get help with their homework."

Detroit police confirmed they are searching for the suspect.

The soon-to-be community center is a place lifelong Eden Gardens neighbor Lashawn Grant says he would love to send his daughter.

Eden Gardens
Eden Gardens neighbor Lashawn Grant and his daughter. (April 16, 2024)

"When I was little, we had Joy of Jesus. We had all types of community centers like places to go play, ball but it's just something for the kids to look forward to, something to help with their future," Grant said. "This is definitely what we need in this community for little kids like this to look forward to something in the community."

Knox is now asking for the community's help as she works to finish the learning center. She says they could use volunteers, monetary donations and supply donations.

Learn more about Eden Gardens and their work in the video below:

Children's garden fundraising to build learning center on city's east side

"I almost threw my hands up, but I said no you can't stop because this is about the children. It's about changing lives and if you give up, they won," Knox said.

If you'd like to donate, a fundraising campaign has been set up. The Eden Garden Community Association can also be reached via their website or at 313-587-4949 if you'd like to volunteer or donate supplies.

Additionally, if you have any information about the thief, call Detroit police.