Charity cash stolen after thieves enter club via roof

jpco-3-10-13  Maidenbower Park Community Centre Robbery  (Pic by Jon Rigby)
jpco-3-10-13 Maidenbower Park Community Centre Robbery (Pic by Jon Rigby)

Volunteers at Maidenbower Community Club say they have been left feeling ‘violated’ after thieves broke in and stole money raised for charity.

Intruders broke in to the club in Maidenbower Park through the Pavilion roof. They smashed the fire door window and got into the bar on Friday night (September 27).

jpco-3-10-13  Maidenbower Park Community Centre Robbery  (Pic by Jon Rigby)

jpco-3-10-13 Maidenbower Park Community Centre Robbery (Pic by Jon Rigby)

They found money the club had raised that day running a MacMillan Cancer Support coffee morning as well as the volunteers’ tip money and money raised towards building a patio - nearly £400 in total.

Thieves also took two bottles of Jack Daniels, a bottle of Smirnoff vodka and a box of red wine.

The club is run entirely by volunteers with support from Crawley Borough Council which owns the pavilion.

Nicola Smith, one of the club’s founder members, found out about the burglary on Saturday morning as she was getting ready to come in.

She said: “[Volunteer] Rob had opened up and my phone kept ringing. He said we’ve been robbed.

“As I came across the field I saw the hole in the roof. People were outside standing there.

“I was absolutely devastated. We couldn’t touch anything, there was glass everywhere. We had to wait until 3.30pm until the forensics had been. We were in total shock.”

They later watched the CCTV footage of the intruders getting in.

Nicola said: “They were like animals. They jumped up on the bar. We were in here for a party on Saturday. Had it not been a private party, I would have shut.

“We just wanted to clean everything. My house was burgled a few years ago. It felt like that.”

Volunteer Suzi Jardine added: “You feel violated. The place doesn’t feel the same anymore.

“They have been here, touched things and it was the cancer money. That’s the thing that’s got us most.

“On the upside we have raised more money for MacMillan Cancer than we had before. In a way, it’s not a blessing in disguise, but good has come of it.”

The club had raised £83.50 for MacMillan Cancer Support on Friday, but since the incident donations and offers of help have come forward.

Nicky Sharpe, who bakes cupcakes for the club made a giant cupcake to auction off for £25 and they received two more sizeable donations and they have now raised about £230.

Nicola said: “I had people come in who I’ve never seen before offering to help. People were chucking money in.”

The community club only opened in May after months of planning and raising money to decorate the hall. It is now used daily by the public, including a regular mums and toddlers group.

They were also shocked by the weekend’s events.

Sam Kirkpatrick said: “Nicola offered us this space so it means we can still meet up as mums and have a space for them to play as well.

“We are gutted. It’s sickening. The only good thing that’s come of it is the great community spirit.”

Tammy Hall said: “This place is a lifeline for me. The amount of work they have put in to get this up and running; to see it all violated.”

A police spokesman said: “Police were called to Maidenbower Park at 2.20am on Saturday (September 28) to report the pavilion had been broken into. It appears they climbed onto the roof and smashed some glass to get in. A charity box was stolen containing around £80.”

Anyone with information or saw anything suspicious is asked to contact police on 101 or email quoting serial 320 of 28/9.

A Crawley Borough Council spokesman said: “It is very regrettable that the Maidenbower Park Community Group has been targeted in such a way after all the excellent hard work and commitment that they have put into establishing the social club at the pavilion.

“The council has supported local residents in making their vision for a community social club become a reality and will continue to support them going forward.”