Vandals destroy community centre for Hatfield’s most vulnerable
- Credit: Sophie Blackman WHT
A community hub in Hatfield that caters for children with autism and a number of charity groups has been destroyed during a cruel act of vandalism.
The Hatfield Connect premises above Pump Gyms, in Beaconsfield Court, was targeted by yobs between Saturday, January 13, 5pm and Monday, January 15, 1pm.
Offenders broke in, vandalised walls and furniture, stole items, ripped out security cameras and lights from the ceiling, barricaded all the exits and kicked walls down.
Bottles of alcohol and empty cigarette packets were left with other rubbish including their fish and chip dinner.
The main area, which also received the worst damage, was due to be a space for children on the autism spectrum or who have ADHD to enjoy, feel safe, make friends, and have fun in.
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Angela Gaughan set up the group - Potential Kids - and was looking forward to running the group from the Hatfield Connect premises.
She had always dreamed of starting the group so that children like her nine-year-old son who has autism could have somewhere to go.
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Angela discovered the damage on Monday when she couldn’t open the doors because they were barricaded shut.
She said: “I wanted my son and others to be able to go there and have a safe place.
“I was just devastated when I first walked through the door.
“It’s heartbreaking. I haven’t told my son as he would be so upset.
“All the hard work, the money that’s gone into it, the time - it was going to be something amazing for the community.”
The premises would have opened this weekend for the first time to be used for a Saturday school, run by CVS, but sadly this will now have to be put back.
Angela added: “This won’t stop us opening at some point but we need to make sure everything is sorted and made safe before it can be opened.”
Welwyn Hatfield Community and Voluntary Service (CVS) have been supporting Angela to make her dreams come true and helped her get the funding to make it happen.
The people of Hatfield have once again come together as a community after pictures of the damage were posted on social media.
Hundreds have offered to clean up, paint, make tea rounds or help in any way they can.
Builders, plumbers, painters and many other tradesmen and women have also come forward to offer their services free of charge.
Angela said: “The reaction already is so heart-warming and beyond amazing.
“We would like to thank everyone who has offered their help or said they would like to donate.
“Myself and CVS are working on how this will work and as soon as we have a plan the Welwyn Hatfield Times will let the public know.”
Carmen Dillon from CVS: “Welwyn Hatfield CVS have been working with Potential Kids in creating a space at Hatfield Connect to run their social group.
“This break-in has left us crushed, all the good work we done has been a set back but it will not stop us in creating a safe place where charities and social groups can meet in a safe environment.
“There is so little low-cost community space in Hatfield for groups to meet that we are really excited to be given this opportunity to make a success of this community hub.
“We would have opened this weekend with our first Saturday school.”
A police spokeswoman said: “We are investigating and forensics have visited.
“We have also pursued a number of other lines of enquiry as part of the investigation.
“Anyone who saw any suspicious activity in the area between the times stated is asked to contact Hertfordshire Constabulary via the non-emergency number 101, quoting crime reference B2/18/233, or report information online at www.herts.police.uk/report.
“Alternatively, you can contact the independent crime-fighting charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or through their Anonymous Online Form at www.crimestoppers-uk.org.
“No personal details are taken, information cannot be traced or recorded and you will never need to go to court.”