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It’s supposed to be a place that youth call home. But on Wednesday, Boys and Girls Club staff discovered something that shook them — a burglary.
“It was over $7,000 worth of stuff that was taken,” said Chon Ferrell, Boys and Girls Club executive director. “All of their game systems, controllers, games and two laptops. They stole everything.”
All of those electronic items including two tablets and another laptop were also stolen from the Boys and Girls Club Teen Center, which is located in the gym across the parking lot of the organization’s main building.
The Rotary Club of Greater Wilson recently had donated $10,000, which was used to outfit the teen center with new electronics, furniture and other items. Officials believe the break-in occurred sometime Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.
The Wilson Police Department continues to investigate the case.
“I was hurt,” Ferrell said. “It’s like somebody just stabbed you and you cannot breathe. When you walk in and see that police officer dusting the stuff for fingerprints ... How can you explain it to your teens?”
‘THEY WILL BE DEVASTATED’
The teen center’s door was kicked in, and the thief or thieves rummaged through a cabinet area where all the gaming systems and laptops were stored.
“When you walk in there now, the only thing you are going to see are the couches and bean bags,” Ferrell said.
She said the culprits did leave the coffeemaker, printer and microwave. Ferrell said the Rotary Club made a donation to help youth and change lives.
“And now it’s gone,” Ferrell said. “That room was created to help teens, to get teens off the street and give them somewhere to go. What are they going to do now? They don’t have a place.”
Boys and Girls Club staff said the whole event has been heartbreaking. They couldn’t even tell the kids Wednesday afternoon. Ferrell said she was too upset.
“The first thing they are going to ask me is, ‘Why? Why, Miss Chon, why was it taken?’” she said. “And you cannot answer it.”
Ferrell planned to tell the kids Thursday afternoon.
“I know they will be devastated,” she said. “It’s a room they designed. It’s the things that they wanted. They had a stake in it. They were a part of it from start to finish.”
‘EVERYTHING WAS GONE’
Jessica Richardson, the organization’s unit director, said when she walked over to the gym around lunchtime Wednesday, that’s when she noticed what had happened.
“I was panicking,” Richardson said. “I had never experienced anything like this before. Everything was gone.”
Ferrell noted how the new teen center is used every day. And the youth enjoy spending time in an area they call a home away from home.
“It’s supposed to be a safe place,” she said.
In the past year, the Boys and Girls Club has also secured large grants, including one from the The Altria Group. That money has gone toward renovating rooms in the main building for science, technology, engineering and math programs. The club also received a Lowe’s Hometown Hero Grant where staff went in and renovated the Boys and Girls Club gym. Those renovations also included custom-made doors due to the building’s age. They will now have to be fixed, too.
PROTECTING THEIR BLESSINGS
The Salvation Army’s Lt. Jake Law said he was upset because staff and the Wilson community have worked so hard to bring the youth new opportunities.
He said the culprits stole from a place that has to watch each dollar.
“Everything we get is going back into trying to have a place for these kids to go,” Law said. “The things that were stolen are a big draw. The kids around here don’t have those things at home. They get to come here and have those things.”
Officials said they are in the process of filing an insurance claim, but they have deductibles that will need to be met.
Law said for so long, the Boys and Girls Club had items that had either broken down or were dilapidated. He said now that the club’s belongings and buildings are beginning to get nice again, staffers have to find a way to protect it all.
“Because of our blessing, now we have another burden,” he said. “And the burden is to protect our blessing.”
To protect those blessings, Law said the organization is going to look into installing security cameras around the buildings.
“It’s going to be a substantial cost,” Law said. “But I think there will be people willing to help us.”
Police ask anyone with information regarding the Boys and Girls Club break-in to contact the Wilson Police Department at 252-399-2323 or CrimeStoppers at 252-243-2255.
If you would like to help the Salvation Army Boys in Girls Club in Wilson, contact Chon Ferrell at 252-243-2696 or 252-243-5443. The Boys and Girls Club, a United Way agency, is located at 316 S. Tarboro St.