Living in a small town can have its benefits: lower cost of living, less traffic, a place where small businesses can thrive, and the list goes on. However, what’s arguably the best thing about small town is the close community.
Less than two years after Marvin Phillips and his family moved to Tenino, Washington, a community of fewer than 2,000 people, his family was the victim of a hate crime. However, they soon discovered that their neighbors had their backs no matter what.
Moving into a community that was predominantly white, Phillips found himself and his family members to be part of a tiny minority. In fact, during the time his family had lived there, they hadn’t run into any other African American families.
While Phillips had seen and dealt with racism before, his children, who played and interacted with other white children, had no idea.
“My kids don’t see racism,” Phillips said of his children, who are biracial.
However, in August 2016, Philips’s whole family was the victim of a hate crime.
“It made me want to cry when I saw it,” Heidi Russell, a neighbor, told K5 News. “It was terrible.”
The Phillips family were away on a camping trip when vandals used spray paint to write racial slurs across the family’s home and truck. Marvin, who wasn’t aware of the situation at home, received a call from the police alerting him that his property had been vandalized. He phoned a friend, Misty Dell, who was unsure what to do, so she called Russell.
Looking for additional help from the community, Russell then posted about the vandalism on Facebook.
Russell and her husband, Matt, then organized a clean-up for the next day, Saturday.
“Our biggest concern was getting this done before the family came home because they have small children and we didn’t want them to see their truck or their home vandalized,” Heidi said.
‘It all comes back to family,” Matt, the head coach for Tenino’s youth football league, told the Washington Post. “We’re all family and what does family do? We help each other out. We banded together so the family didn’t have to deal with it. We never wanted recognition for it, we wanted it fixed.”
Approximately 50 people, from young to old, showed up to erase the vulgar language from the Phillips’s property. Even people who didn’t live in Tenino came to help.
Despite the clean-up proving to be more difficult than originally expected, the volunteers persisted.
“We tried using several different things to get the writing off, and it wasn’t working, so we all pitched in and got paint and repainted the house,” Dell said.
Officer Wilson was on duty that day, and she too stopped by to show her support.
“I’m here to protect and serve,” said Officer Wilson. “It aggravates me when this happens. I’m here to make it right.”
Although they were able to get rid of most of the spray paint on Marvin’s truck, there were some parts where the paint was stubborn and wouldn’t come off.
A local car dealership offered to replace the truck, but Phillips declined—the truck was his father’s and he planned on keeping it and one day giving it to his own son. So, instead, they fixed Phillips’ truck free of charge with other local businesses pitching in as well.
Although the Phillips family originally planned to be away until Tuesday, they ended up coming home early from their camping trip. At the time, Phillips’s children were between 6 months old and 10 years old at the time, and the father of five was worried about what to say to his children.
“I didn’t want to have to explain to my kids what the N-word was or what the KKK was all about right now,” he told ABC News. “I didn’t want my kids to look at their friends differently.”
However, Phillips didn’t have to explain.
Before the family arrived back from their vacation, the vulgar messages were already gone. Seeing his repainted home, Marvin was extremely grateful to his neighbors.
I love our town and can't thank everyone enough for all the help for this awesome family!
“They did a fantastic job. They poured out their spirit and their love. It was unreal. I was overwhelmed,” Marvin said. “I thank God for the people that came out and helped me. I wish I knew them all.”
Marvin said he wanted to thank everyone who helped him. The action of these volunteers was invaluable to the family and the rest of the community.
“I would say love conquered this hate and we need a little bit more in this world,” Phillips told Q13 FOX.