Living in a small town can have its benefits: lower cost of living, less traffic, a place where small businesses can thrive, the list goes on.
Less than two years after Marvin Phillips and his family moved to Tenino, Washington, a community of fewer than 2,000 people, he discovered another benefit of small town living: neighbors who have your back no matter what.
When the Phillipses moved into town, they were in the minority.
Phillips told The Washington Post in 2016 that in the time since his family had moved to Tenino they hadn’t run into any other African American families. The community was predominantly white.
“My kids don’t see racism,” he said of his children, who are biracial.
In August 2016, the family was the victim of a hate crime.
“It made me want to cry when I saw it,” Heidi Russell told KING 5. “It was terrible.”
While the Phillipses were away on a camping trip, vandals used spray paint to write racial slurs across the family’s home and truck.
Marvin, who wasn’t aware of the situation at home, received a call from the police alerting him that his property had been vandalized. He phoned a friend, who, unsure what to do, called Russell.
Russell posted about the vandalism on Facebook and asked for the community’s help.
Heidi and her husband, Matt, organized a cleanup before the family was scheduled to arrive home.
“Our biggest concern was getting this done before the family came home because they have small children and we didn’t want them to see their truck or their home vandalized,” Heidi said.
‘It all comes back to family,” Matt, who is the head coach for Tenino’s youth football league, which the Phillipses are members of, told The Washington Post. “We’re all family and what does family do? We help each other out. We banded together so the family didn’t have to deal with it. We never wanted recognition for it, we wanted it fixed.”
Approximately 50 people showed up to erase the vulgar language from the Phillipses’ property.
Even people who didn’t live in Tenino showed up to help.
At first, the group of volunteers attempted to scrub the writing off of the family’s home, but when that didn’t work everyone pitched in and they purchased paint so they could repaint the house.
Although they were able to get rid of most of the spray paint on Marvin’s truck, there were some parts where the paint was stubborn and wouldn’t come off.
A local car dealership offered to replace the truck, but Phillips declined—the truck was his father’s and he planned on keeping it and one day giving it to his own son. So, instead, they fixed Phillips’ truck free of charge with other local businesses pitching in as well.
People of all ages offered their assistance.
The Phillips family ended up coming home early from their camping trip, but not before their community fixed their property.
When Marvin saw his home, he was extremely grateful to his neighbors and those who helped get rid of the racial slurs.
“I didn’t want to have to explain to my kids what the N-word was or what the KKK was all about right now,” he told ABC News. “I didn’t want my kids to look at their friends differently.”
At the time, his five children were between six-months-old and 10-years-old.
The community was able to erase the vulgar messages from the family’s home.
— Steve McCarron KOMO (@SteveTVNews) August 20, 2016
“I would say love conquered this hate and we need a little bit more in this world,” Phillips told Q13 FOX.
At the time police said the investigation was ongoing and did not have any suspects.