"It's a slap in the face; a slap in the face," said Carlton McDaniel Jr., the founder and Executive Chairman of Able to Serve Inc.
The organization works with about three dozen adults with developmental disabilities in an effort to enhance their skills and abilities, with an ultimate goal of independence.
McDaniel said that when staff showed up Tuesday morning, they found their shed open. Initially, they thought it was a volunteer who had come in early to cut the grass. But when they checked, they found the latch had been cut, and a mower, two blowers, and a weed trimmer were missing.
As part of an agreement with Lord of Lutheran Church to use the property, Able to Serve Inc. is responsible for cutting the grass and maintaining the nearly eight acres of land.
"It's a major thing, and especially this year with all the rain we've had. We've had a lot of hours on a mower out here," McDaniel said.
The stolen equipment, which was purchased within the past few months, was meant to ease that burden.
"You feel violated. This is a safe place," said McDaniel.
He explained much of their funding comes from community members rather than large corporations, making recouping the losses more difficult.
"We're talking about just people who live next door, people we know, who we meet in the grocery store. These are the people that are supporting Able to Serve," McDaniel said.
Security cameras are in place on the property and surveillance video showed an employee leaving around 10:30 Monday evening. Employees returned to work Tuesday about 8 a.m., but the cameras did not catch anybody else in between.
While insurance is expected to cover a chunk of the losses, McDaniel says they'll likely have to pay about $3,000 out of pocket once they factor in security upgrades they'll make. They also have plans to realign their parking to make the area more visible.
The program's day-to-day activities were unaffected by the incident, and McDaniel said he explained the situation to the adults on Wednesday.
Despite the setback, the non-profit is moving forward with its plans of adding a fourth classroom, opening up its services to more adults.
On Thursday, students were working on computers, creating art, making music. Teachers assisted some on math sheets.
"Now as they're going out in the community, a lot more of our community are realizing they're just like they are ... they just have some limitations," McDaniel said. "But who doesn't have limitations?"
A Facebook post on the organization's page listed the following serial numbers for the missing products:
- Titan HD 2500 (Serial No. 400958078)
- Backpack blower (Serial No. P44614305075)
- Weed trimmer (Serial No. UO7815001541)
- Push blower (Serial No. 1130018635)
Able to Serve Inc. had used equipment from the church prior to these recent purchases, but McDaniel said they had become worn out.
McDaniel said one private company has offered to assist in cutting the grass, while another has offered temporary equipment until Able to Serve Inc. is able to replace its own.
If you have any information on this case, call Garner Police at (919) 772-8810.