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Thieves rip out wire and hearts

7:11 PM, Oct 8, 2012   |    comments
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Winter Haven, Florida -- The Citrus Center Boys and Girls Clubs have served kids in Polk County for generations, but now thieves threaten the organization's very survival.

Last week, Operations Manager Curtis Reddick walked to the back of the Winter Haven location and his heart dropped.

"There were a lot of boxes that were down on the ground like this one here," he says pointing to an electrical unit.

The wire thieves had broken locks and ripped apart power stations used each year for the group's primary fundraiser--February's Smoke on the Water BBQ Competition. Club board member Frank Csomos says last year's event attracted about 22,000 people and raised some $80,000 for the club.

The thieves were perhaps able to sell the copper wire for a few hundred dollars, but the club figures it will cost close to $30,000 to repair all the damage and it's unclear how much insurance will cover. In any event, the damage is a huge blow to the not-for-profit group.

"You heart just sinks," says Reddick. "Because here we are struggling and to see this happen, it's just devastating."

Police say the stolen wire is hard to track, still investigators hope tips might lead to an arrest. 

"It's really sad that someone would stoop that low to literally steal from the children," says Winter Haven Police Chief Gary Hester.

A fund for donations has been set up at the MidFlorida Federal Credit Union. The group hopes the community will help enough, so that the big BBQ fundraiser can still go on.

"Hopefully, we'll recover and we'll bounce back and keep moving," says Reddick, "Because it's for the kids."

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