The little city of Tenino has taught the nation a big lesson by using love to conquer hate.
This attitude is one reason why Marvin Phillips and his family plan to stay.
They were on a camping trip last week when unidentified vandals spray-painted “KKK” and racial slurs all over the family’s house and truck.
Word spread fast in this community of about 1,700 people. In less than 24 hours, two-dozen volunteers showed up Saturday to paint over the graffiti before the Phillips family returned.
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The call to action was clear, according to a Facebook post by resident Heidi Russell: “I want the racist cowards to know that we WILL NOT stand for this in our small town.”
Russell recruited volunteers through the Thurston County Youth Football League Tenino Beavers football and cheerleading squads.
“We’re like a family,” she said of the league, which includes Phillips’ children. “I knew my football and cheerleading peeps would be there.”
The gesture has generated national media attention, and Phillips is grateful for the community’s response.
But this isn’t the first time he has encountered racism, and it might not be the last. He doubts the culprits in last week’s vandalism actually belong to the Ku Klux Klan, and he said the hate group may be getting undeserved notoriety. No suspects have been arrested.
“No way do I think the people involved in the KKK came over to my home and did what they did,” said Phillips, who moved to Tenino with his wife and five children in 2015. “I am 58 years old. I know better. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it.”
That said, Phillips has no plan to run away. The semitrailer driver hopes to someday open a bakery in the city.
“I like Tenino,” he said. “That’s why I moved here.”
While volunteers could repaint his home, they were unable to remove the spray paint from the truck’s interior. Northwest Chevrolet in McKenna is in the process of painting the truck and repairing the damage.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Wayne Fournier announced that the owners of Sunset Chevrolet in Sumner also have pledged to repair, restore or replace Phillips’ truck.
Fournier said he is proud of Tenino for coming together and scrubbing out the hateful messages before Phillips’ family could see them.
“We were all sickened by it,” Fournier told The Olympian. “It’s great that the media is highlighting the community’s ability to act.”