WARNER ROBINS -- A weekend break-in at Disabled American Veterans Chapter 33 at 1343 Radio Loop Road has shut down the volunteer organization, its commander says.
Stolen was about $3,000 worth of computer equipment, $500 in cash, a safe, a cash box and about 8 to 10 cases of sodas from the refrigerator, said Rick Newman, the chapter’s commander.
The loss of the computer equipment is significant because the primary purpose of the chapter is to help disabled veterans file medical claims with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and all of that is done online with computers, Newman said.
“We’re shut down right now,” Newman said.
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The chapter operates solely on donations and with a volunteer staff of five people from noon to 5 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Although files were stolen in the break-in, no personal information of veterans is kept on file, Newman said. Mostly what was stolen were blank forms and chapter meeting minutes, he said.
The chapter also provides sodas and water for veterans when they come in. Also, meal cards to fast-food restaurants are given to homeless veterans, as well as clothing, Newman said.
“It’s unfortunate, especially for an agency that does so much for our community and our veterans,” said Dean Swan, chief of voluntary service for the Carl Vinson Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dublin. Swan had stopped in to talk with Newman on Tuesday.
The break-in happened sometime between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.
Newman thinks the thieves backed a truck up to the back door and slid the safe onto the truck bed. He said that effort would have taken at least two people. Tire tracks were visible Tuesday in the grass near the back door.
The chapter was in the process of installing an alarm system, which was not functioning at the time of the break-in. The culprits destroyed that equipment, Newman said.
The double-wide mobile home that houses the agency was donated last year by Dr. James Whitaker, Houston County’s former medical examiner.
The chapter filed an incident report with Warner Robins police, Newman said. He said officers came out Monday and dusted for fingerprints and took photographs.
Newman said he hopes the agency will receive enough donations to purchase new computers to be back in business within two to three weeks.
Anyone interested in helping the chapter get back on its feet may call Newman at 478-538-6576. Anyone with information related to the break-in may call Macon Regional Crimestoppers at 877-68-CRIME.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559, or find her on Twitter@becpurser.