By Melanie Posey
DORA, AL (WBRC) - When Lori Abercrombie comes to empty the drop boxes outside the "Mission of Hope" on Monday mornings, she often has a hard time doing so.
"This would be full," she says unlocking the six foot wooden crates. "In fact, the doors would just be bulged open because there would be so much stuff inside."
But not this Monday. This Monday, the boxes are basically bare. Abercrombie says it's the work of thieves.
"About three weeks ago, we began to notice that our box was not as full," she recalls. Around that same time, a friend of hers called to say they were dropping off a couple of large items for the mission. Abercrombie says when she arrived, the items were gone. And the thieves, she adds, are going to great lengths to steal.
"We've actually had some of our volunteers drive by and see an older man with a stick, actually fishing stuff out of the box. And people tell me, 'I drive by and I see nothing but people's feet hanging out of the box because they're pulling things out.'"
The Mission of Hope was started in 1992 in a Methodist Church in downtown Dora. Over the year, they've grown and moved to a building they now rent on Sharon Boulevard. Abercrombie describes the mission as a food bank and clothes closet for some of the neediest in Dora and within a 12 to 15 mile radius.
"We service about 300 families a month. Clothes, household items, shoes…anything you can buy at Walmart we try to provide," Abercrombie says, adding that the mission's families go through a rigorous screening process before receiving items. Her clients, she says, are in great need. But she doesn't feel the thieves are.
"I'm afraid that people are taking these things to a yard sale or a flea market and selling them."
The problem has become so bad that police have gotten involved. Dora police Chief John Jackson says he has increased patrols of the area and encourages anyone with information to call, even if it's anonymous. Abercrombie says prosecution isn't her goal…but serving the needs of her families is. She says that's why she's sending a plea to whoever's committing the crimes: "Come see me. If you need the things for yourself, if you need clothing or food, some see me. I want to help you."