St. Francis statue - intact - returns to homeless shelter

Shelter operations director Lee Smith poses next to the new statue outside St. Francis House in downtown Gainesville on Tuesday.

Cindy Swirko/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 1:53 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 1:53 p.m.

The St. Francis House homeless shelter has a new St. Francis statue, complete with a head.

Hillbilly Rocks, a Waldo landscape stone company, donated a new statue to replace one that was beheaded early Saturday morning by a man who was irate that he was denied admittance to the shelter on S. Main St.

“It's always a good thing to help people,” said Ricky Beckham who, with his wife Idell, owns Hillbilly Rocks. “When you help an organization like St. Francis House, it comes back to you 10 times over.”

The new, painted statue is of St. Francis sitting on a tree stump with a fawn at his side. It is on the northwest corner of the shelter, where the damaged statue was.

Thomas Jacob Wilder, 23, of Hampton, was arrested on a charge of criminal mischief, according to a report.

The incident occurred about 1:27 a.m. at the shelter at 413 S. Main St. Wilder is accused of trying to seek shelter for the night and began rattling on the door when he was refused, according to the report.

Wilder then broke the head off the concrete St. Francis statue, climbed on a wall and threw a piece of the broken statue through a window, said shelter operations director Lee Smith and an arrest report.

Total damage was estimated at $1,550.

The headless statue has been moved to the entrance and will be repaired and likely left where it now stands near the door.

Lee said the shelter is grateful to the Beckhams for the new statue.

“It's very nice. Not just the statue itself, but someone thinking of us that quickly,” Smith said. “It's cool. Something that was bad turned into good. It's a great silver lining.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top