Thrift store plagued by theft of donated items
By DON FLETCHER
News Staff Writer
As most people are aware, downtown Atmore’s We Care Thrift Store accepts donations of clothes, household items, furniture and more, then sells those items to finance the We Care Program prison ministry.
Officials of the local store have recently reported that their effort to finance the ministry, which is designed to help the families of those incarcerated for various crimes, has been hampered by a rash of petty thefts.
A We Care Thrift Store official said those who have availed themselves illegally of donated items that were placed in the alley behind the South Main Street business have become bolder, even brazen, in their misdeeds.
“It’s become a pretty big issue,” said the official, who requested that his name not be published. “We’ve been made aware of it by some of our customers and we’ve observed it ourselves. In the period between just before the new year and ust after it, we’ve had more than a dozen instances of people stealing donated items. Some of them dumpster-dive, and some even go into the donation boxes.”
He said program officials have now installed a video surveillance system in the alley, and numerous individuals have been caught helping themselves to the hand-me-downs left by others.
“We’ve been working on our camera system for a while, and we’ve been able to identify some of them,” he said. “Some people have hit us multiple times, including one vehicle that came three times in one day.”
The video evidence is being passed on in two ways, one designed to punish those who commit the petty thefts and one to help identify others.
“We’ve filed reports with the city police, and we plan to prosecute the people we’ve identified for theft,” the store official said. “We have a sign that lets people know they are being videoed, but they keep on. This has to stop. We’ve started posting the videos on our Facebook page and asking anybody who can identify the people in them to contact us.”
Police Chief Chuck Brooks said police are “ conducting an investigation into the reports and are actively pursuing the cases.”
Brooks added that warrants will be issued against those who can be positively identified as stealing the property.
The store official added that although the store supports a prison ministry, We Care also partners with another local charitable organization to help those in need who are outside the concrete walls and razor wire of a prison.
“Every dollar we make goes into the prison ministry, but we help others who are in need,” he said. “We work with Atmore Christian Care Ministry and give those who need food or clothes a gift card to use there. So, if a person is in need, he or she should contact us, not just take the items from our donations.
“We’re trying to keep these donations as blessings to others. We can’t do that if the donations are being taken away.”