Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa says six of its clothing donations bins disappeared from five locations Thursday morning.
Susan Ingram, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters Ottawa, said their driver alerted the organization to the missing bins while doing his morning pick up rounds.
"It's a little disheartening, you have someone stealing from a charity at this time of year," Ingram said.
The boxes were taken from four Catholic schools in Kanata and south Ottawa, as well as the Royal Canadian Legion branch on Stittsville Main Street. The schools were:
- All Saints Catholic High School.
- Georges Vanier Catholic School.
- St. Jerome School.
- St. Francis Xavier Catholic High School.
The size and weight of the boxes raises questions about whether the theft involved a co-ordinated group, Ingram said.
"They're just almost 1,000 pounds each, they're solid steel. They'd be difficult to move," she said.
"I would say that you probably need more than one person because when we place them we need about three or four volunteers to help."
She said each bin costs about $1,200 — not to mention the value of the donations left inside since the last pick-up on Tuesday.
Bins stolen in Outaouais
Big Brothers Big Sisters Outaouais had five of their bins stolen just over a month ago and St. Vincent de Paul in Gatineau had two bins taken shortly after.
"It does bring to mind is, is this something co-ordinated? Is this something that's the same offenders? I don't know, maybe it is," Ingram said.
Yvonne Dubé, general director of the Outaouais chapter, said the thefts have left her feeling "sick to my stomach." Her organization has just raised the money to replace the stolen bins.
"I'm worried they're going to disappear again because if the bins in Ottawa are gone that means whoever is doing this is still around," she said. "Whether they're in Ottawa or Gatineau, we're so close."
The average bin can collect between $3,000 and $5,000 worth of clothing donations per month, Dubé said. Her organization is placing bins more strategically and will be buying GPS units so they can be tracked if they're stolen.
Still accepting donations
Back in Ottawa, Ingram said she has filed police reports and is collecting surveillance video to help the police investigation.
She's asking anyone who saw suspicious activity at any of the bin sites to come forward.
She's hoping this will raise awareness of the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters, who offer a variety of mentorship programs matching volunteers with children and at-risk youth.
The organization will continue its partnership with Ottawa Catholic schools and the city, she said, adding there are still 20 bins across the city for people who want to donate.