Incident at church ends volunteer experience

Published 4:00 pm Monday, March 14, 2016


AMERICUS — An incident earlier this week at a local church did not result in any arrests but disappointment.
Americus Police officers responded shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday to First United Methodist Church, 200 S. Lee St., to a report of three white males on the roof of the church. When officers arrived, while they didn’t find anyone on the roof, they did find 29 young adults inside the church and observed “alcoholic beverages along with marijuana.” Officers, according to the report, destroyed the alcohol and placed the marijuana in the evidence locker at the police department for later destruction.
The police report states that the church youth minister, Charles McLendon, was notified and came to the church. McLendon told police that he would “take care of the situation” and apologized for their behavior, the report states. McLendon also told officers that all the young adults were accounted for and none were on the roof. He told officers that the group was hosted by the church while they did volunteer work for the Fuller Center for Housing.
The police report states, “it was never determined who was on the roof of the church nor could it be determined who the alcohol or marijuana belonged to due to the youth having their personal property all over the rooms.”
The report further states that the shift commander decided not to charge the subjects because there were 29 of them and they would have to be transported to the Americus Police Department for processing, “and the charges would have possibly resulted in them not coming back to the state of Georgia for court.”
Dr. Jerry Roe, senior pastor of Americus First United Methodist Church, issued the following statement regarding the incident.
“Providing a safe and welcoming environment for everyone who enters the doors of our church is a high priority for us. We are disappointed that a group allowed to stay on our property would violate the trust we gave them. We are, however, thankful for the quick response of local law enforcement and how they handled the situation. We cooperated fully with the law enforcement officials, and I asked the students to vacate the premises the following day. We are following up with university officials and will be looking at ways we can strengthen our policies and procedures. Our prayer is that these students will learn and mature through this experience.”
Chris Johnson, director of communications for the Fuller Center for Housing headquartered in Americus, issued the following statement.
“We are very disappointed to learn of the behavior of a very few students from Penn State University who were part of a group of more than two dozen students using their spring breaks to serve others here in Americus, Georgia, with the Americus-Sumter Fuller Center for Housing as part of our U.S. Builders program.
“Although we do not believe the actions of the few represent the whole of this entire Penn State team, all of the students were immediately sent home. We do not believe this represents the hundreds of college students who use their breaks from school to serve others through The Fuller Center, nor do they represent Penn State University as a whole.
“First United Methodist Church is a tremendous partner in our ministry and has generously hosted many volunteers without incident, and we apologize to the church.
“In the history of The Fuller Center for Housing, we have never before had a situation like this arise, and we will further stress to future teams the rules against such behavior.”
After being contacted by the Times-Recorder, Penn State had no comment.