The spray-painted swastika on the Tim McGraw mural was cleaned up on Thursday by a group of volunteers.

A group of four women – who were part of crews of at-risk youth who worked on the murals with artist Michelle Loughery as part of the former Youth Mural Project – took it upon themselves to restore the McGraw mural to its former glory.

Former crew member Christy Whittaker spearheaded the initiative and was hard at work Thursday afternoon scrubbing away the graffiti with her 10-year-old daughter Kitana Shuter and fellow Youth Mural Project volunteers Kim Harry and Lloya Spahan.

“This isn’t right at all,” Whittaker said. “Michelle [Loughery] has done a lot for this community, and the community needs to respect what she’s done – what we’ve done.”

Whittaker said the four originally tried Mr. Clean wipes to remove the graffiti, but it wasn’t working so they switched to a graffiti remover.

“We just have to be careful because it will remove the paint,” Whittaker said.

Whittaker said she tried to get more former members of the mural project to attend but most of them were either busy with work or no longer live in town.

As one of the at-risk youth involved with the project, Whittaker said she views Loughery as a mother figure.

“She took the youth at risk that were on the mural crew under her wing and gave them a direction,” Whittaker said, noting Loughery gave them a different perspective on life and showed them there is more to it than drinking and partying.

She said the murals gave the at-risk youth something else to focus on.

Loughery told the Herald she wasn’t aware of the swastika graffiti until she went on Facebook and saw that some former crew members had already began organizing a clean-up crew.

“It was just so wonderful to know that what we did there worked, and that they took it upon themselves to not only be upset about somebody wrecking the work, but have the leadership to do something about it,” Loughery said.

Loughery also said when the mural project was in Merritt, it gave at-risk youth training in trades through mural painting as well as job skills training and job shadowing.

She said the initiative of those former members shows the success the program had in Merritt.

Katie Mitchell, executive director of Loughery’s charity (Loughery Mural ARTwork Foundation) said she contacted the City of Merritt regarding the cleaning of the mural. Carole Fraser, human resources manager for the City of Merritt said she told Mitchell the mural’s maintenance is the responsibility of the owner of the business on which the mural is painted.

Copper Valley Mechanical attempted cleaning the mural and then the group of former mural crew members stepped in to take on the job.

Robyn Grebliunas was a life skills instructor for at-risk youth in the mural project and said she thought the initiative shows a lighter side to an otherwise bad story.

“I think that’s a great reflection of the work that was done in that program,” Grebliunas said.

Whittaker said this isn’t the first time a mural has been defaced in Merritt.