ESPERANCE, N.Y. (NEWS10) – State Police in Cobleskill are trying to find out who painted swastikas on buildings and signs throughout the Village of Esperance.
A message of people is now affixed to the side of a church in Esperance, but what is painted underneath shocked the Village on the first day of 2017.
“You start out a new year expecting good things and people to try and do good things and look out for other people,” said Kelly Shelffo, Deputy Mayor of the Village of Esperance.
Shelffo says instead of love and hope, the first day of the near year went differently than she expected.
“You get slammed in the face with hate,” she said.
Shelffo woke up on January 1 to swastikas painted on buildings and signs throughout the community including a church and a sign for local playground.
“You know I have four grandchildren. They’re petrified and scared. Everybody is scared I think,” Former village of Esperance Deputy Mayor Sylvia Williams said. “Do they actually know what it means, what they’ve put up there? That it was a German, it was Hitler and millions of Jewish people were killed.”
“It’s disgusting to wake up and see your village not only vandalized, but vandalized with symbols that are very hateful and hurtful,” said Shelffo.
After seeing the damage and knowing the police had already taken photos of it, Shelffo decided to recruit her kids and go try to clean up the paint. But when Shelffo and her kids arrived, they discovered that people had already covered up the symbols of hate with messages of love and peace.
“It made me feel good to know that there are people out there that care,” said Shelffo.
Shelffo knew the posters would only be a quick and temporary fix, so she and family went to work cleaning up everything that they could.
Shelffo says her children had not known what swastikas were before they appeared all over their town on Sunday.
“I just want people to feel welcomed here,” said Justin, Shelffo’s 12-year-old son.
“If I can help any way I can to get rid of this stuff I will,” said Shelffo’s 14-year-old daughter Brianna. “It’s not a nice thing to do.”
Even though the swastikas are now gone, Shelffo says it doesn’t change what happened.
“It feels better knowing that people aren’t going to drive by and continue to see them,” said Shelffo. “But it doesn’t make me feel any better inside. This was still a horrific act that was directly done to our village.”
The pastor of Esperance Presbyterian Church says it is offering a $500 reward for any information on the vandalism.
State Police are urging anyone who may have any information about who painted the swastikas to give their Cobleskill barracks a call at 518-234-9400.