Theft, arson hamper Detroit nonprofit’s efforts

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The leaders of a nonprofit community center on Detroit’s east side say their efforts to offer summer programming have been compromised by the theft and damage to resources that would’ve been sold to raise funds.

Nikita Murry, executive director of the Brighter Detroit Community Center, said the nonprofit has had a tough three days.

On Sunday, several ATVs, flat-screen TVs, power washers and lawn mowers were stolen from a warehouse on the 15700 block of Harper at a property owned by Payne Landscaping.

On Monday, several vehicles the nonprofit owns but does not formally hold the title to were stripped.

On Tuesday, one of those vehicles, a former Detroit Public Schools police van, was set on fire inside a fenced-in parking lot on the property.

The theft and the fire were reported to police, Officer Jennifer Moreno said.

The stolen and damaged goods would’ve been sold to raise money for the community center on McClellan. Brighter Detroit acquired the building in 2014, Murry said.

Brighter Detroit founder Terry Payne Jr., an east-sider, owns Payne Landscaping and created the nonprofit in 2014.

The price tag for a complete rehab of the building is $1.2 million, Murry said. But making the building usable for programs this summer will require $250,000, of which Brighter Detroit still needs $175,000. The greatest problem in the building, which dates to the 1940s, is electrical, Murry said.

“(The thieves) might think they’re stealing from people who have more than them, but they’re stealing from children who have less,” Murry said.

If the funds can’t be raised, Brighter Detroit’s summer program will take place outdoors.

Murry describes the area near the building between Gratiot on the north and East Warren to the south, as short on activities for youths in the summer. About 900 school-age kids live in the area, Murry said.

“There’s nothing for them to do; there are not enough resources to accommodate a community with that many children in and around it,” Murry said.