A Sunderland charity has been left devastated after thieves stole its new transport.
Staff at the Box Youth Project in the city, which does fantastic work with young people and the community, said they cannot believe someone would do this.
The raiders cut through two sets of padlocked gates with an angle grinder to take the van, which young adults, many with special needs, use to carry out work in the community to raise cash for the charity’s activities.
Lisa Wilson-Riddell, the charity’s youth and community worker, said everyone, including all the children, are very upset about the theft of the van, which cost the organisation £8,500 just a few months ago.
Lisa said: “We have got a fantastic charity here, which is mostly run by volunteers, and to come in one morning to find this, we are just devastated.
“We do our best for the children and it is so annoying and upsetting to think that someone could do this.
We are just devastatedLisa Wilson-Riddell
“You don’t steal from anybody, but to steal from a charity is just terrible.”
The Box Youth Project, which is based in Sunderland’s Hall Farm Road, was set up 16 years ago and provides scores of activities and educational events for young people.
Throughout the summer it has run an extensive programme of fun and low cost events and trips to support families in the area.
Lisa said they bought the van so the group of volunteer workers, some with autism and other disabilities, could go out into the community with all their tools and do work for people, such as gardening for the elderly, for small donations.
They also use the van to collect and upcycle unwanted items, which are then sold to support the charity’s activities for the children.
Lisa said: “It is not just the charity that is suffering, but the people in the community who rely on us, such as the elderly and vulnerable to do jobs for them.”
Although the van was insured and the theft is being investigated by police, Lisa said this will still cost them a lot of money and is a huge inconvenience.
However, she said: “The amount of support we have had from people and the lovely messages about the work we do has been great.”
The black Ford Transit diesel van, registration number YS12 NKW, was stolen at 11.30pm on Tuesday, August 28, and anyone with information is urged to contact the police.