A COMMUNITY centre was left ‘devastated’ after its Christmas tree was ‘ripped apart’ by vandals overnight.
 
New Lodge Community Centre’s tree’s decorations were smashed, the lights were torn off and thrown into a nearby field and branches were ripped from the bottom of the tree.
 
This was after its Christmas lights switch-on last week, which was a free event held for residents to celebrate the festive season.
 
Tony Lowe, who is a volunteer at the community centre, was the first to find the Christmas tree on Saturday morning.
 
“I came down in the morning to do a regular clean-up and as I went to turn the power pack on for the tree, I couldn’t find it,” he said.
 
“I then realised that the Christmas lights were shredded and ripped. They had not just been pulled down, they had been torn apart.
 
“The baubles and lights were found smashed on the floor as if someone had stomped on them.
 
“It is so infuriating especially with the time, effort and money that the community had put into it.”
 
Local groups – including the St Helen’s Ward Alliance – are set to provide funding to fix the damage and replace the lights and decorations that were smashed
 
Coun Sarah Tattersall said: “It was devastating for the community to hear that the tree had been damaged.
 
“Councillors are working with Ad Astra, the ward alliance and the North Area Council to repair the tree the best we can.
 
“It really was the heart of the community so we will do all we can to put it back to its original state.”
 
After hearing about the damage, local residents rallied around the community centre and offered their time and resources to help restore the tree back to its former state.
 
Michelle Cooper, from the community centre, said: “The community really rallied around us.
“We had residents offering to help us repair the tree, and even people donating their own baubles and Christmas decorations.
 
“It was so heartwarming to see the local community pull together and help us out in our time of need.”