UPDATE: To add insult to injury, workers arrived at Fortress on Wednesday morning to find that someone had broken windows on two of their vans, pried open the vans' hoods (which had been locked down due to past thefts) and stole the batteries overnight. "It's just another thing to have to deal with," said longtime volunteer Kristi Carman. "It's frustrating, very frustrating."
FORT WORTH -- Copper thieves forced the two-day shutdown this week of a nonprofit organization that helps children in need.
The Fortress Youth Development Center, which runs a preschool and after-school program for children living in an area near southeast Fort Worth, had to shut down its programs Monday and Tuesday after thieves damaged the electric meter to steal copper over the weekend, leaving the facility on Stella Street without electricity.
Spokeswoman Stacy Kocur said the organization paid $2,800 Monday to buy a new meter and replace the stolen copper and plans to reopen today after electricity is restored.
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But she found out late Tuesday that officials with Milestone Electric, which did the repairs, voided the check after they found out what had happened.
She said the agency will also have to replace much of the food that was kept in the facility's refrigerators and freezers and was used to provide breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner for participants.
"Some of it we were able to salvage. We brought it home and put in our own freezers, but most of it had thawed too much," she said. "It's going to be a pretty big expense when it's all said and done."
As of Tuesday afternoon, Fortress had received $1,100 in donations, Kocur said.
Incorporated in 2005, the Fortress Youth Development Center provides social and academic resources to help children overcome generational poverty, according to its website.
Kocur said 24 children are enrolled in the preschool program and 65 in the after-school program.
"Ninety percent of our kids live below the national poverty level," Kocur said. "For some of our kids, Fortress is the only really stable thing they have. They come from terrible home situations. ... Sometimes it's the only place they get help with homework. Outside of school, it's the only place they get a meal."
"It's also a hardship on some of the parents who work and who depend on this program for their after-school care," Kocur said. "It allows them to work without having to pay day care."
"We're a small nonprofit. We don't have money in reserves or budget things like this," she said.
Kocur said it is not the first time that thieves have targeted the facility. Since January, five batteries have been stolen from vans.
"People steal them and then resell them for the little bit of copper in them," Kocur said. "They get $4 for a battery that cost us $100 each."
The facility's air-conditioning unit has also been the target of thieves a few times, she said.
Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655