BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (FOX 9) - One year ago, the Brooklyn Park Salvation Army was nearly ruined in a large fire. On Sunday, its church community returned to the space for the first time.
"The place has been resurrected back to its capacity," churchgoer Dan Ralph said. "I was a little bit confused why somebody would do that, but I know this church has forgiveness for that individual." Dozens of parishioners joined Ralph to fill the Sunday service; marking the first service in their chapel since a vandal tore the building apart.
Jack Heinrich pleaded guilty to vandalizing the building in December. Since then, he’s pled guilty in two other vandalism cases. In August, after a probation violation, he was sent for addiction treatment at Meridian Behavioral Health.
Brooklyn Park church leaders say he broke out most of the building’s windows and damaged offices, a food shelf and a fleet of vehicles parked outside.
"I’m still finding little pieces of glass here and there," Salvation Army Captain Daniel Simmons said. "There’s a lot to find, a lot to get out. We are still turning our space into a safe space."
The church was forced to move its weekly services to a community room; while restoration crews brought in new carpet, wood paneling, sheetrock, paint, electrical equipment and many windows.
"It wasn’t just a rebuilding of a space, it was the rebuilding of security, it was rebuilding of forgiveness, and how can someone do this?" Captain Simmons explained.
Work to rebuild took longer than expected, and ultimately cost their insurance close to $400,000.
Still, they believe the tough year has brought them closer together, and opened their hearts, "Our hearts are in a space, where if he walked in today, we can receive [Heinrich]," Captain Simmons said. "Who are we to hold a grudge when we’ve all done wrong? So yes, we forgive the individual."