|Thief Makes Off With Louison House Donations|
|By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff |
08:24PM / Wednesday, December 30, 2020
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An opportunistic burglar made off with Louison House donations worth a $1,000 or more, along with a sleeping bag and coats early Tuesday morning.
Executive Director Kathy Keeser said the theft was discovered Tuesday when a staff member entered the office at Flood House on Church Street to find the stack of mail she'd picked up the day before was missing. She speculated that the burglar saw cards and donation envelopes in the mail and thought they could get some quick cash.
But there would not have been any cash. The envelopes would have contained checks made out to Louison House — and those can't be cashed since they're deposit only. But now the homeless shelter has to figure who sent the donations and how to contact the donors to let them know that someone absconded with their contributions.
"We don't know how much we lost, we don't know who they came from," said Keeser. "So that's my big thing."
The nonprofit does two annual drives a year, mailing out about 500 solicitation letters that raise about $7,000. Keeser said the mailings are usually midwinter and late summer but this year they were delayed because of the pandemic. This mailing went out right after Thanksgiving so donations are still coming in. She estimated the amount taken on Tuesday morning could be between $1,000 and $2,000, based on recent mail pickups.
The staff member had picked up the mail Monday from organization's post office box and left them on her desk to deal with them in the morning. Keeser had been out of town until Monday night.
The thief, or thieves, were able to enter the property because several aspects of the building's security were not in place. Keeser described it as "a series of flukes" that gave the person access to the upper floor of the building.
The former family home is undergoing renovation into apartments now that Terry's House — the original Louison House — was able to reopen after a devastating fire. Flood House is expected to be ready in mid-April when it will be able to provide subsidized housing.
The individual was able to get into the basement but should have been stopped at that point because of a locked door to the first floor. Except the door wasn't there.
"The door was off because there was lead on the door, and that had to come off for deleading," Keeser said. And, the normally locked office door had been removed, and some of cameras were not in place because of the construction work going on.
"It wasn't really errors. It was just these all these things lined up," she said. "Normally these guys would have gotten only as far as basement, big deal that's where we store furniture ... Normally, even if they did somehow get upstairs, they wouldn't have been able to get into the offices either because there would have been a door on and that would have been locked."
Keeser was able to pull some images from the working cameras, including a picture of the thief's boots and to get a time of about 5 a.m. She said police were contacted immediately and they began to search the area for the missing envelopes, thinking the person would have dropped them once finding there was no cash. But if the thief had tossed them in the dumpster it was too late — the trash had already been picked up.
MountainOne has also put out an alert in case someone does try to cash a donation check — or if someone finds them.
Keeser said she's not expecting to find the checks and isn't that interested in finding the person. She just wants to make sure that Louison House can, hopefully, get its donors to generously write out a second check (and void the first).
Another mailing will go out in a week or so to the donation list to apprise contributors of what happened.
As for the thief, Keeser thinks the person or persons was looking to get out of the cold and saw an opportunity, rather than planning a burglary. She pointed out the only other things taken were a sleeping bag and coat.
"If they'd asked for the sleeping bag and coat, I would have given it to them," she said.