Information sought in $10K Christian Conference Center vandalism

The area at the National Christian Conference Center in Phoenixville where vandals burned an estimated $10,000 in camp equipment. Staff photo by J. Finneran

The Schuylkill Township Police are seeking any information to assist in apprehension the party responsible for causing an estimated $10,000 in damage to a recreation area at the National Christian Conference Center located at 1485 Valley Forge Rd. in Phoenixville.

The recreation area, which chiefly consists of ropes courses, was recently built as part of Camp Dragonfly Forest, a free camp for children with medical conditions such as Autism, who would not normally get to enjoy such activities. The camp concluded just a two weeks ago.

The actor(s) had broken into a storage shed at the ropes course site, which is located in a clearing which is approximately a quarter-mile down an access road behind the main Conference Center facilities, and then removed nearly all of the items within the shed, placed the contents into a pile, and then set the pile afire.

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According to Diane Donatelli, Director of Operations for the National Christian Conference Center, the damage was discovered the morning of Saturday, Aug. 17, and the site was observed as undamaged the day of Friday, Aug. 16. All that remained upon discovery of the vandalism was charred and misshapen pieces of metal, and the actor(s) also damaged part of a new gazebo that was adjacent to the storage shed.

“We have staff who live on site in an apartment who walked by (the area) around 7 p.m. (on Friday, Aug. 16) and everything was fine,” she said. “When she came by the next day her kids saw that the shed door was open and saw the (remains of) the fire.”

Donatelli added that while there had been some issues trespassers in the past, there had been no recent problems.

Dominic Colleluori, Vice President and Chairman of the Board for the conference center, lives onsite at the center. He said that he had been up until 2 a.m. the night of Aug. 16 and did not notice anyone using the access road, which runs right adjacent to his home. As he looked over the remains of the fire, he remarked on how the area is also accessible on foot from Flintlock Lane, which ends in a cul-de-sac that borders the recreation area.

“We put in a lot of work clearing this area so that we could put this camp on for the first time. Now we have to rethink how we store things here. We just hope whoever did this (is caught) so that something like this doesn’t happen again.”

The conference center has distributed fliers describing the vandalism to homes on Flintlock Lane in the hopes that anyone who noticed suspicious persons, vehicles or activity will come forward to provide assistance.

The conference center is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest. Persons with information regarding this crime can reach the Schuylkill Township Police Department at 610-933-5820.