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Vandalism stirs resourcefulness of Hearts & Hammers volunteers

Fifteen AmeriCorps workers who woke up Saturday morning to find three of their cars vandalized in the South Whidbey High School parking lot had no idea that the damage would lead to the best lesson in volunteerism they’d ever seen.

Staying overnight at the school before participating in South Whidbey’s annual Hearts & Hammers workday, the AmeriCorps team members found the damage as they were getting ready to do construction and home maintenance for the workday. Sometime during the previous night or early that morning, vandals had broken windows out of three cars owned by team members and spray-painted swastika’s and other markings on the vehicles.

As more than 400 other Hearts & Hammers volunteers showed up for the work day, they were shocked and disappointed to see the damage. Hearts & Hammers president Bob Dalton was at first outraged to see the damage. But then, during the organization’s pre-work breakfast, he set out the first of a number cash collection cans.

Within minutes, Hearts & Hammers volunteers came up with about $700 to help fix the cars. Tom Bolvin, a volunteer who has a background in auto-body repair, offered to buff the paint off the cars. To take care of the glass damage, Freeland volunteer Susan Knickerbocker called a glass repairman in Everett, who left work early to fix the cars.

By day’s end, said AmeriCorps team leader Sean Walsh, the cars — including his own — were better than new.

“It was amazing,” he said.

At the work day to teach Hearts & Hammers participants about volunteerism, the AmeriCorps team went away from the day as the learners. Dalton said he was convinced by day’s end that the hundreds of South Whidbey people who turned out for the work day could do anything.

“This is a group that nothing stood in their way,” he said.

The Island County Sheriff’s Office investigated the crime, responding to the scene after the damage was discovered at 6 a.m. Lt. Evan Tingstad said deputies could not find any evidence that holds out a chance of discovering who did the damage. He said that in addition to the damage, the vandals stole a cellular phone and several compact discs from one of the cars.

AmeriCorps’ Walsh said his team will return for the work day next year.

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