Those who have called Prosper home for any length of time likely are familiar with “the silos.”

The aluminum structures near downtown have long served as a popular backdrop for amateur and professional photographers who frequently snap family portraits, high school senior photos and the like there.

That is due in large part to the words “small town, big heart,” which were spray painted years ago in a cute script onto the silos.

Over the years, the saying has become a sort of unofficial motto for Prosper.

“That was part of the charm of downtown,” said Marcus Ray, Prosper Town Council Place 1 member.

However, in recent weeks, new photos showing graffiti on the silos have made the rounds on local social media pages.

Crudely drawn words and symbols were sprayed with brightly colored paint onto several areas of the structure, including over the “small heart, big town” phrase.

Ray became aware of the vandalism when his wife, Gwen, shared the photos with him.

After driving over to the silos to view the damage, “I was like, `We’ve gotta do something about this,’” he said.

Ray said he contacted the owner of the silos, which are located on private property, and received permission to attempt to remove the graffiti with the assistance of a group of local volunteers.

The silos and the phrase “just have a special place in Prosper’s heart,” he said, “and there’s a large, growing community that wanted to take care of it.”

Sidetracked by a stretch of bad weather, Ray and the other volunteers were forced to put cleanup efforts on hold for a few weeks.

Also, “Before we had a bunch of people come up there, I wanted to make sure we had the right supplies and (would be able) to maintain our (social) distancing” as they worked, he explained.

Ray took it upon himself to purchase several items intended to remove paint from aluminum, including a “grinding wheel” that successfully buffed off a portion of the graffiti but left the aged silos with an uncharacteristic shine.

He also called Prosper Fire Department Chief Stuart Blasingame, who Ray says attempted to power wash the paint off with a blast of water from a hose on one of the department’s rigs.

The spray paint “was so baked in, it didn’t even come off,” Ray said.

In search of recommendations about how to remove the spray paint, Ray reached out to Tammy and David Reese, his longtime neighbors in the Trails of Prosper subdivision.

The couple owns and operates Prosper-based Reese Painting, which specializes in commercial and residential projects.

Rather than share their expert advice, the Reeses offered to oversee the clean-up effort themselves free of charge, using professional-grade products and skilled elbow grease.

“When I saw it, I was shocked,” Tammy Reese said of the vandalism. “There was all kinds of disgusting stuff spray painted on there. There was vulgar stuff on there and all kinds of craziness.”

She ended up pulling three of her company’s professional painters off of another job to focus on the graffiti removal.

Tammy Reese and her crew spent several hours on May 18 removing the spray paint that she said “had been there for so long that it’s like etched into the actual aluminum.”

They used what she called an “eco-friendly” product to effectively remove most of the graffiti, save for one area that she suspects was vandalized using an oil-based paint.

“We worked on that and worked on that, and we just could not get it off,” she explained.

Due to the location of the graffiti on the silo, she said it also was not possible to save the “small town, big heart” phrase, which was removed during the cleaning process.

“We tried to avoid taking that off because I know it is such a big issue. Everybody loves that,” she said.

Ray said he has already been in contact with the person who originally painted the heartfelt phrase on the silo, adding that its owner has agreed to allow those words to be repainted on the structure sometime in the future.

“I’ll be glad to see that go back up,” he said.

Tammy Reese said she declined Ray’s offer to reimburse her company out of his own pocket for the cost of its supplies and time spent removing the graffiti.

“We’ve been here since 2005 and we love our town, and we love our community, we love our neighborhood and our neighbors,” she said. “It’s something small that we can do for our town.”