The Shelter House Cafe in Newburgh has seen its fair share of vandalism, but instead of punishing the most recent vandals, owner Stephen Sinnott took the incident and turned it into a lesson for the community.
The Cafe is located in Downing Park, and their alarm is set off at least weekly due to vandalism according to Sinnott.
“Windows and outdoor lighting are damaged regularly,” Sinnott said.
Last week the Cafe was victim once again, and this time patio furniture was being thrown into the nearby pond. The Cafe staff was made aware of the situation by a regular customer.
“Upon reviewing the footage on our surveillance system, three kids approached the café and proceeded to take the furniture off the patio and throw it in the water,” Sinnott said.
Due to the constant crimes and vandalism the Cafe is put through, Sinnott decided the best course of action would be to post two videos to the Facebook page. One video was the footage of the three boys with the furniture, the other video showed a recent attempted burglary where the door was kicked in, resulting in hundreds of dollars of damage.
“The videos received an immediate reaction from both concerned citizens that both agreed and disagreed with our approach to expose the issues,” Sinnott said. “One of the respondents on the threads turned out to be a caring parent defending her son.”
Sinnott privately messaged the woman, Shonnie Christian, to let her know that he purposely did not go to the police because he knows that kids make mistakes. He then offered Christian and her son to come in for a complimentary breakfast or lunch.
“It is possible that he may see the efforts we are all making in our shared community and have a change of heart going forward in our beautiful public park,” Sinnott said in his message to Christian.
Christian took Sinnott up on the offer and came to the Cafe the next morning. Sinnott did not want to focus on why Christian’s son did what he did, but instead chose to focus on the “importance of every citizen taking ownership in our cities green spaces and roles we have as a community to keep our Parks beautiful and accessible.”
After the meetup Sinnott, Christian, and Christian’s son took a photo together in front of the Cafe. The photo was posted to the Shelter House Cafe Facebook page and has gained 348 likes and 77 comments in four days.
“Thank you to Steve, for making it possible for this young man to step forward to make amends. You are a pillar in our community!” Caren Henderson, a frequent visitor of the cafe, wrote.
Sinnott is proud he has the opportunity to teach the community about the respect people should have for their parks.
“Through serendipity, we gained a friend who visits frequently,” Sinnott said.