Police are hunting a thief who stole a collection box from a Sunderland charity shop.
Staff at the St Benedict’s Hospice furniture shop in Ryhope raised the alarm when they realised what had happened.
Manager Ashley Davidson said it had been her colleague Lorraine D’Arcy who first noticed the box was missing from its usual spot, on the shop counter, on Saturday, November 19.
“I was actually off and she texted me to ask ‘Do you know where the money box is?’,” said Ashley.
“I said ‘No, but now I think about it, I don’t remember seeing it on the Friday’.”
Ashley is appalled that anyone could be heartless enough to steal from such a worthwhile cause.
“Lorraine said she had seen someone put a load of their change into the box – somebody has probably seen that happen, realised it was going to be full and decided to take it.
“I think it is awful, especially this close to Christmas, to take money from a charity.
“St Benedict’s is just a local charity, it is not one of the big ones, which I think makes it worse. We are just trying to help people.”
Ashley has been delighted with the support from local people, however.
“Our customers are really shocked,” she said. “They just think it is dreadful that the box has been taken.”
St Benedict’s retail manager Marie Leighton said staff had been shaken by what had happened.
“The shop managers are really upset about it, and so are the customers. They are disgusted.”
Fundraising manager Catrina Flynn said theft of collection boxes was not unusual, but it was particularly upsetting that one had been taken from the charity’s own shop.
“It happens all the time with collection cans, but you don’t expect it from your own hospice shop,” she said.
“It is the first tin we have ever had stolen from our own shop – we get them stolen from pubs all the time.
“Some places keep them behind the counter, other charities have them chained up, but a lot of shops are not happy with the chained ones, because it limits where they can put them.”
Even if the tin had been full, it was unlikely it would contain more than about £25.
“It is not the amount of money, it is the principle.”
Anyone with information about the theft should contact Northumbria Police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.