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'It's frustrating': Neighbourhood support group rocked by break-ins

Laptops, Storm tickets, gift cards among items taken from Onward Willow Community Centre over the weekend

Whether it's getting food hampers, meals, clothing, peer support, kids programming, community programming and much more, the Onward Willow Neighbourhood Group has been there for residents in need.

But after a weekend where the building was breached, and someone made away with laptops, keys and community donations, it's looking to the community to continue with its generosity to help them out.

Guelph police are investigating after a pair of break and enters at the group's office, located in a townhouse complex on Willow Road.

Police said Saturday morning between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., someone broke open a lock box containing keys outside the unit, and got into the building.

"They took my Chromebook and two laptops, and that's pretty much all we noticed (Sunday)," said Shauna Brown, neighbourhood support worker.

She said another colleague, Lynne Kloostra, was asked to come by Sunday and didn't notice anything else taken from her office. When she came back Monday, her office "was ransacked."

That confirmed to Brown that someone also broke in early Monday morning.

Items were strewn about on the ground behind a desk in Kloostra's office, including a rubber glove seemingly left behind.

Other items taken include gift cards the group was saving for clients for Christmas, as well as Guelph Storm tickets that were going to be used for its backpack program.

"(These items) were given to us, it's just now I don't have them to give to the community," Brown said. "It makes me angry to not be able to have these items to give."

The neighbourhood group works under the umbrella of the Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition. 

The coalition helps cover salaries, rent and utilities for the centre, while everything else comes from community donations.

"We do this because we care about our community, and we aren't here to make money," Brown said.

"There's nothing better when a community member comes in, they could be (feeling down), and in just whatever time they're here, we leave them and they're (feeling much better)," added Jen Quillman, another support worker.

"That makes me feel amazing, just to see the difference."

With the break in, Brown said while it is frustrating someone would take from them, she's glad nobody was hurt, there was minimal damage done, "and it's stuff."

"If there was a tornado, and everything got taken away but we lived, thank goodness we lived and we're healthy," she said. "That's the important thing. We can always get more stuff."

The centre is open every Monday, Wednesday and Friday 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Because of the break in, the centre stayed closed Monday.

The plan is to enhance security measures, including a sensor light and security cameras.

Brown said anyone wanting to help in that regard should reach out directly by phone (519-824-6892) or email.

You can also bring food, household items such as plates and cutlery, hygiene items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, body wash and shampoo, baby items like diapers, seasonal clothing right to the site at 15 Willow Rd., Unit K45.

"We are always in need of peanut butter, pasta, pasta sauce, tuna, rice, canned tomatoes, soups, kids cereals," Brown said.

Monetary donations can also be made through CanadaHelps.


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Mark Pare

About the Author: Mark Pare

Mark is a longtime journalist and broadcaster, who has worked in several Ontario markets.
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