Stealing from a program that helps local kids didn’t sit well with guests at Vernon’s Upper Room Mission.
When staff informed guests at meal time Thursday of an overnight theft of donated bottles used to help fund the Mission’s Health Snacks program at three elementary schools, the news hit hard.
“The guests were so upset. One of the guests came up to me and said, ‘I don’t have money, I don’t have snacks but I’m going to fix the fence,’ and I started crying,” said Mission general manager Cera Brown on Friday. “He was out there for seven hours fixing the fence.”
Brown arrived for work at 7 a.m. Thursday and discovered the Mission’s bottle room had been raided.
Thieves cut a hole in the chain-link fence leading to the bottle room and emptied two large bins full of donated bottles.
The stolen bottles would have been used to fund the Healthy Snacks Program at three Vernon elementary schools.
The bottles were generously donated by local businesses and community members.
The RCMP were notified and video surveillance has been provided to help with the investigation.
“Thankfully, the URM does have a reserve to draw funds from so the children at these schools will receive healthy snacks this week,” said Brown. “However, the theft of these bottles has created a funding challenge going forward.”
When word got out of the theft via social media, the community stepped up on Friday.
“I’ve been sorting bottles all morning and people have been dropping off cheques,” said Brown. “The community response has been amazing. We are humbled by the outpouring of community support following the break-in of our bottle room.
“We are so proud to say that thanks to the kindness, compassion and generosity of our community, we are well on our way to restoring the empty bottle reserve.”
If you would like to donate your empty bottles to help fund the Healthy Snacks Program, please contact the Upper Room Mission, or drop your empty bottles off between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday at the Mission, located at 3403-27th Avenue. You can also contact the Mission to make arrangements to drop off bottles on the weekend.