The Woodburn Neighborhood Association is getting creative to raise money to replace its stolen sign.
In the darkest hours between October 22 and 23, 2021, a strong thief was hard at work stealing a 3-by-8-foot wooden sign, no doubt quite heavy, that was bolted to a frame anchored into the ground at an entrance to the Woodburn neighborhood. Woodburn is a tight-knit area where neighbors greet each other warmly and take pride in maintaining well-kept and welcoming streets. And the stolen sign was something special, made by hand by renowned West Virginia artist Jaime Lester—formerly a resident and still a property owner in Woodburn.
The neighborhood has a few signs, all fashioned by Lester, marking its various entrances. City councilwoman and Woodburn resident Danielle Trumble was one of the first to notice that the sign at the intersection of Richwood and Monongalia avenues was missing, just days after another neighbor had spent considerable time cleaning it and giving it a fresh paint job. She alerted a few of her neighbors and filed a report with the Morgantown Police Department. More than six months later, she says, there are still no leads. “It’s not like someone came by and picked it up randomly. They would have had to have a plan to remove and haul away an 8-foot sign,” she says. “It’s actually the second one that’s been stolen since Jamie made them. I’m not sure if it’s his involvement that makes them so attractive.”
Lester is more than happy to make a replacement, since the original sign appears to be missing for good. But the replacement comes at a considerable cost: $4,000. Trumble says the city has a fund that helps neighborhoods with signage, which would cover half the cost of a replacement. Residents are getting creative with ways to come up with the balance.
Evan Chapman, co-owner of the online retail store LovingWV.com, pitched in to help out. He created a replica magnet and sticker of the sign currently for sale on the website, with all proceeds going to the replacement sign fund. Folks only have about a month to order the limited-release items.
Local musician Chris Haddox is scheduled to do a backyard concert to raise additional funds for the project, too, Trumble says. And the neighborhood association has created a GoFundMe fundraiser for anyone who would like to donate to the cause. It’s an inspiring tale of rallying the troops, using your talents, and helping neighbors.
Once Woodburn finally gets a replacement sign, potential thieves beware. The Woodburn Association of Neighbors is exploring countermeasures that will help the police find it, and you, if you take it. Besides, we think it looks far better at the intersection than it ever would as part of some mismatched wall art collection.