Copper thieves disrupt Meals on Wheels service in DFW

FORT WORTH -- Thousands of homebound clients went without meal delivery Monday after copper thieves struck again at Meals on Wheels Inc. of Tarrant County, severing a power line, agency officials said.

It was the third time since last summer that thieves have disrupted services at the nonprofit's facility on South Freeway near downtown, spokeswoman Denise Harris said.

The agency had installed grating and fencing to keep thieves out.

"We've consulted with security experts and been told we're doing everything possible, but unfortunately [thieves] keep finding a way to do it again," Harris said. "It's frustrating."

Officials believe that someone cut the power line about 1 a.m. while stealing about 80 pounds of copper from the outside of the building, she said. Because the facility had no power, it remained closed for the day.

Officials hope that electricity would be restored by today, she said. Crews worked throughout the day Monday.

Clients should not have gone hungry because the organization previously distributed nonperishable meals for days when food isn't delivered, she said. But those meals are supposed to be reserved for days with inclement weather.

The theft was particularly badly timed because it happened on a Monday, and many homebound clients haven't seen a volunteer since Friday, she said. Also, the frigid weekend weather could have been dangerous for some clients.

"Some of our clients are isolated and depend on us to check their well-being," Harris said.

Caseworkers piled extra blankets into vehicles Monday and visited vulnerable clients, she said.

Meals on Wheels isn't sure how much repairs will cost. In August, thieves took one pound of copper and damaged a walk-in cooler and one of two air-conditioning units during thefts that occurred two weeks apart. Repairs cost the agency $6,000 to $7,000, Harris said.

About five years ago, an air conditioner and cooler were stolen.

In June, the agency launched a $15.5 million capital campaign for a facility that would quadruple kitchen space. It will be built on 9.2 acres south of Airport Freeway, just west of Carson Street.

Alex Branch, 817-390-7689

Twitter: @albranch1