A RINGWOOD charity centre that supports over 70 people with learning disabilities was left counting the costs after a tractor and ride-on mower worth thousands of pounds were stolen in an overnight raid.
Thieves broke into a storage shed at the Lantern Community in Folly Farm Lane during Monday night – the third time the site has been targeted in the last six months.
The stolen green John Deere tractor and mower, which were both green and valued at around £16,000 and £4,000 respectively, had only been obtained by the charity last year following fundraising.
Speaking to the A&T, day services manager Emma Borbely said the vehicles had been essential tools used by the adults with learning disabilities as they helped look after the estate’s grounds.
The Lantern Community is home to 53 people, with another 25 on day placements. They have access to five craft workshops, a shop, a café and a bakery as well as helping to care for the grounds.
Ms Borbely told the A&T: “I feel very disappointed and angered that we have been targeted now for the third time, when we are a charity supporting people and trying to make a difference.
“The tractor and sit-on mower are such an essential part of the care of our estate and gardens.
“The activities that take place here support vulnerable adults in being involved in meaningful work and for them this has a big impact and the question, ‘Why us?’”
The centre aims to provide fulfilling home, work and social interaction opportunities to those in its care in a mutually supportive environment.
Monday night’s break-in left both the residents and staff deeply saddened. Damage caused to the outbuilding when the thieves forced entry meant they could not use the workshop.
“It feels very sad that people are coming here and taking things that don’t belong to them,” said resident Beau.
The first of the three break-ins saw thieves steal £2,000 of gardening equipment, including chainsaws and trimmers and blowers.
These were replaced and new locks installed, but the whole lot was stolen when the offenders struck again. Now, after being replaced yet again, that equipment is stored elsewhere off-site.
A Dorset Police spokesperson said on Tuesday afternoon no arrests had yet been made as investigations into the latest raid continue. People are being urged to come forward if they witnessed any suspicious activity.
Anyone with information should contact officers on 101, quoting crime reference number 55190130296, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
To help the Lantern Community raise funds for a replacement tractor, visit www.lanterncommunity.org.uk and follow the link to its JustGiving page.
Another green John Deere tractor was stolen on the same night from Ringwood School in Parsonage Barn Lane.