LOUISVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Leaders with Topside Church of God are offering a reward for the church’s missing sign and light, which they say they noticed went missing last Sunday.
The light was just installed a few months ago by a church member who offered to pay for and install it. The sign that is missing had been there for several years, according to associate pastor Shawn Hatfield.
Hatfield said the missing sign was a safety measure for truck drivers.
It read ‘No trucks over 3/4 tons.’
“It was there basically to keep big trucks from coming up into the driveway and turning around, because if a big truck comes up and tried to turn around, there, it’s really narrow and there’s no way that a big truck would turn around there, you know, safely,” Hatfield said.
He said it looked like someone tried really hard to get the sign off the post.
“On the left-hand side of it, you can just see it’s all kind of bent up and ripped. Just absolutely 100 percent ripped off,” Hatfield said.
The main sign for the church was also damaged. There is a large scrape going through half the sign. The light that was stolen illuminated that sign at night.
Hatfield said that not only does the light being stolen means someone destroyed the hard work and money a church member put into installing it, but now it could be unsafe for drivers leaving the church.
He said most of Topside Road is well lit, but not right in front of the church. At night, without much lighting, Hatfield said it’s easy to miss the ditch in front of the sign.
“We actually had a couple of cars that were backing out of the driveway there and didn’t see the ditch line, went to make the turn and right off. So that was, you know, it’s all visibility there. So somebody can see it,” Hatfield said.
Hatfield said the most disheartening part about the theft and vandalism is the congregation has put their time and money to help keep the inside and out of the church beautiful.
Now, it’s going to cost at least $1,500 to fix the damage or replace the items.
Hatfield said they want to find the person, or people, who did this. They’ve heard other churches along Topside Road have been victims of vandals, so they want to stop more damage from being done.
He said at the end of the day, they are church leaders and are forgiving, so they would appreciate someone coming forward with information.
“If it’s a kid that is out there that has made a mistake, you know, just goofing around, if they’ll come forward we’ll work with them. We’re not mean people,” Hatfield said.
If it’s an adult doing the damage out of hate, Hatfield said, then they would like to help them if they can, or press charges.
Hatfield said anyone can send in information by messaging the church on social media, or giving the church a call at 865-983-7028.
He said he knows someone must have seen something. Based on the fact that the light only works at night, he believes the culprit stole the light and sign during the daytime, otherwise, they could have been shocked.
Hatfield said Topside Road is busy during the day, so someone must have driven by when the theft occurred.
The church is offering a reward for the return of the sign and a police report through the Blount County Sheriff’s Office has been filed.
BCSO said Monday one of its patrol deputies took a report on June 13 at the Topside Church of God in reference to a theft. Someone at the church reported that someone stole a sign and a spotlight (valued at approximately $600) from the church premises sometime in the last week. BCSO also said the deputy who took the report will investigate the incident.
Hatfield said the church doesn’t have security cameras now, but they are in the works of getting some installed.