Students given 48-hour notice to move out of Church of the Harvest campus

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Students staying in dorms at Church of the Harvest were given a 48-hour notice on Tuesday, telling them they need to move out by 8 p.m. Thursday.
 
Colleen Zelenski, who just finished the church’s college program, says the order came with no warning.
 
“There were no text messages, no phone calls, no emails, nothing, no other kind of contact,” she said.
 
She says the original move-out date was supposed to be at the end of June.
 
Students got a notice on their doors that read in part:
 
“We apologize that we must require this at this time. No one expected the virus and certainly no one anticipated the vicious postings on Facebook. Some were incredibly hurtful, unfair, and simply untrue things about our leadership, their family and our staff.”
 
The notices come after a former intern posted on Facebook about a week and a half ago, calling on the church to shut down. Numerous people shared stories of negative experiences.

“There’s tons of spiritual trauma, there’s ton of mental abuse, sexual abuse, and finally people are coming forward and it’s been going on for 20 years,” former intern Branden Palesano said.

“All of the dorms were rat-infested. We had to build our own furniture that was supposed to be provided for us; it was just filthy going in and horrible there,” former intern Nikiera Everett said.

Zelenski says at one point, there was so much mold in her room, it made her sick.

She says she hopes the church will directly address the allegations against them.

“I’m kind of getting tired of them not addressing the situation. I feel like that would be the easiest way for them to start healing this process, for other people to start healing, but the fact that they just kind of keep avoiding it is just kind of making it a lot harder on everybody,” she said. “It’s hard to believe that they’re all bad. I still want to believe the good things in them, so it’s kind of hard to know they’re still avoiding this.”

While Zelenski was able to move out on time on Tuesday, she says the abrupt notice left many in a scramble. 

“For a lot of students, I feel like they might’ve just been in a panic; there’s furniture, there’s belongings all over the place,” Zelenski said. “It was just very disheartening, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of reason to why they might want us off so quickly.”

Lawrence Swicegood, a representative for the church, sent KFOR this statement: 

“All students had been free to return home when COVID hit and continue their school online. 
 
Probably 80% did return home and had not returned in summer. 
 
With the inability to hold summer camps because of COVID, their presence in OKC was not mandatory. 
 
They technically finished the educational courses in mid-May. 
 
Safety and security and threats were our major concern. 
 
The college oversight team met with the students, told them the necessity to move out by the end of the month, then turned in their resignations on or before June 16 and left.
 
We met with the students on Monday,  June 15 and told them that they needed to be moved by the end of the day Friday, June 19. This left the dorms, etc. with no oversight, no one to be there to handle the normal operations and lack of security presented a serious concern
 
Yesterday and today, we have taken 8 calls from students or parents. They all needed additional time. We have 7 of those amicably resolved giving them 1-3 extra days. The 1 student was not in town.”

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