Burglars raid charity store, toy-drive hub

LAWRENCEVILLE - Sukie Barker is dumbfounded. Saddened. Outraged. And a little more cynical about the human spirit.

Just as momentum was starting to build for Barker's holiday charities, thieves broke into her Lawrenceville thrift store Saturday and set her back hundreds of dollars, she said.

Barker is a co-founder of New Life Fellowship Church, which operates food, clothing and toy drives for lesser privileged families in metro Atlanta.

Her clothing operation at 100 Hurricane Shoals Road, dubbed Threads of Life, was burglarized sometime early Saturday morning. The impact will likely resonate through the holidays, Barker said.

Barker said the thieves made off with hundreds in jewelry and toys (including her extensive cache of Beanie Babies). They also lifted about $70 from a cash register and Barker's own digital camera, which held photos of her 35th wedding anniversary she hadn't downloaded yet.

But worst of all, the burglars took a cell phone that acted as a hotline for needy families who wish to apply for toy donations at Christmas, Barker said.

"Nobody understands what we're up against here - we're just here to help people," Barker said. "It's so stupid to take a phone."

Barker said she's filed a report with the Lawrenceville Police Department but she isn't optimistic that suspects will be caught. The store lacks video surveillance, she said.

"We're seriously thinking about putting some (cameras) up, but it's not a money-making endeavor," Barker said. "They think we make a lot of money here. Our children's clothes are 94 cents a piece."

Barker said her organization supplied about 1,000 area children with toys last year. Prior to the burglary, she hoped to serve an additional 500 this year.

Barker's other charity, Bread of Life Food Ministries, serves food four days a week, she said.

But Barker said good news befell the charities Tuesday morning. She was able to switch the traditional phone number for toy applications - 770-822-4400 - to an older phone.

Now Barker plans to resume her holiday duties as usual, specifically focusing on collecting clothes for teens. She has some catching up to do. Many are dependent on her help.

"We don't turn anybody down - not for food, not for toys," Barker said. "Most people know that if you come in here and don't have money, I'll give it to you."