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Director: AC units stolen from facility

Photo by Tori Boone

Photo by Tori Boone

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Happy but dripping in sweat, Gina Rowell's 7-year-old daughter ran up to her Monday evening, the close of her first day back at the Lawrenceville Boys and Girls Club.

Upon entering the center that day, Rowell said she knew instantly something was wrong -- "it was as hot in there as it was outside," the single mother of two said.

The receptionist there confirmed the thought. Heartless bandits had pilfered the center's seven air conditioning units.

"Being kids I guess it doesn't make them not want to come, because that's where they socialize and play games and everything," Rowell said Wednesday.

"But I don't feel comfortable having them continue to go, even though I really need them to go."

Rory Johnson, the senior executive director for this Boys and Girls Club, said the units were stolen sometime during the night between Aug. 8 and 9, nothing left but the wire frames they had sat in. Students scheduled to pour in soon, staff had been readying the building on Stone Mountain Street where children had found a safe haven since 1990.

With few other options, students in the after-school program have continued to attend this year, despite the uncomfortable inconvenience.

"(Parents) were amazed just as everyone else that somebody would actually do that to a youth facility, a facility that helps take care of the youth, empower the youth and instill in them to be good community citizens," Johnson said.

"For somebody to do that, it had really just taken everybody aback a little bit."

Insurance will take care of the replacement, but a hefty deductible of $10,000 will have to come out of funds meant to help with the facility's numerous programs, Johnson said.

In the meantime, fans aplenty have been purchased, at no small expense or stress. With record-high temperatures still soaring everywhere, suitable large fans are harder to come by.

Many had to be purchased right off the floor of local stores, Johnson said.

"We're doing the best we can with what we have," Johnson said. "In spite of it, we're here for the kids."

AC thefts have been no stranger to Gwinnett and surrounding areas this summer. Similar occurences have taken place at churches, businesses and homes alike.

"These thieves are taking AC units for the resalable metals contained within," Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Brian Kelly said. "Once stolen, they will remove the copper and other materials of value and sell these to recyclers throughout the metropolitan area."

"It takes a morally corrupt person to steal at all," he added, "but to steal from churches, Boys and Girls Clubs and others of that ilk is contemptible."

The Boys and Girls Club will be making due in the stead of air conditioning, using fans to "maintain airflow and at least make it more comfortable" for the more than the few hundred kids there every day. Johnson said they'll hope to have new air systems up and running by Monday or Tuesday.

Until then, everyone is just left to wonder why.

"It's really a shame," Rowell said. "Because these kids need a place."