By Meg Olson
The Point Roberts Firefighters’ Association raised almost $1,000 for the food bank during their recent “boot drive,” but local families won’t benefit from the community’s generosity after a thief stole the money.
At the December 10 meeting of fire district commissioners, chief Christopher Carleton reported that sometime between the November 29 fundraiser and December 2, when the crime was discovered, someone had entered the fire station and rifled through several lockers, taking personal items and the money, in addition to food collected by association members. No signs of forced entry were found but a back door to the station was found unlatched. Carleton said the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the crime.
Association president Fadi said the association would continue with the boot drive throughout December, and would also look at other ways to make up for the stolen money. “We might pass the hat, use funds we’ve raised during the year or a combination,” he said, adding the membership has yet to meet and discuss the issue. The boot drives will be at the International Marketplace as weather and fire department activities permit, collecting food and cash donations.
Food bank volunteer Henry Rosenthal said the funds from the boot drives had been intended to help local families with pressing clothing needs to help kids stay warm and dry through winter. Plans for holiday food packages are going ahead, thanks in part to a spontaneous donation of turkeys by Terry Ritchie.
“The number of people who are so giving and wonderful without being asked,” Rosenthal said. “How do you even begin to say thank you to all these people?”
The Giving Tree program, a collaboration between the food bank and Umpqua Bank, has received widespread community support, with every tag for local children already taken. Donations of toys are still being accepted at the bank.
In the wake of the theft, which Carleton said was unprecedented and unsettling, the fire district will be stepping up security. Currently the main door to the fire station is controlled by a passcode, and other doors have bar locks, which can be left unlatched. He plans to work with a security specialist to install more secure options, such as electronic card locks, as well as cameras.
“This incident has definitely pushed us into securing this building,” he said. “We have some high value items in the station.”
Carleton added he had also discussed with the association the need for more secure solutions for fundraisers.