A Dundee charity has been left devastated after “despicable” thieves ransacked its food larder store.
As well as stealing food provisions from Dundee Thegither and causing damage totalling around £1,000, the thieves snatched a Willy Wonka wheelbarrow that brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of city kids during lockdown.
The break-in was discovered at the former barber shop next to the Cutty Sark Bar on Kingsway East by the chairwoman of the community group, Siobhan Tolland.
The group had only recently begun storing food larder provisions there.
Siobhan said: “I couldn’t believe it – I’m absolutely gutted. When I got here I discovered that someone had used wire cutters to break into the wire doors before breaking the glass to get into the building.
“They then got in through the broken window, leaving a trail of blood everywhere.
“They helped themselves to food collected and donated for the food larder, before finding the spare keys and letting themselves out the back door of the pub.
“We were horrified to discover they had even taken our Willy Wonka wheelbarrow that was used all summer to go round the streets handing out sweets and goodies to city kids to help bring a smile to their faces during lockdown.
“This has been a despicable act and I really don’t know how anyone could do this.”
Lee Mills, who dressed as Willy Wonka and is co-founder of Dundee Thegither, said he was devastated.
“We have only recently started storing our food larder products here,” he said.
“We are very upset that someone has broken in and done so such damage and stolen what is essentially free food anyway.
“We are also very sad at the theft of our Willy Wonka wheelbarrow. It was brilliant to go round with it during the summer and during lockdown.
“We can only hope that we get it back. I can’t imagine it’s going to be very easy to hide the wheelbarrow. It’s pretty unique and very brightly painted.
“We are hoping that someone finds it or sees it and we get it back.”
Ginny Lawson, manager of the Brooksbank Centre described the act as a “disgusting thing for anyone to do”.
“They have stolen what is to be given out free anyway and they have caused hundreds of pounds of damage and ransacked the premises in the process,” she said.
“All anyone had to do was ask and they would have been given free food or anything else they needed anyway.
“Lee and Siobhan and the team from Dundee Thegither have done a fantastic job in the community throughout the pandemic and it’s devastating and atrocious that someone thought it was OK to break in and do this.”
Earlier this year the charity was praised at Westminster for its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dundee East MP Stewart Hosie tabled an early day motion recognising the “hard work and selflessness” of those involved in helping to keep vulnerable individuals stocked with vital supplies of food and medicine.
The MP said: “This has been a challenging and lonely time for many people and I know that it has been made some bit easier thanks to the efforts of individuals in the community and local groups.”
The group was formed at the start of the coronavirus outbreak to support the local community through food packages and a Covid-19 helpline.
At the time Lee said: “I have been surprised by both the level of poverty in Dundee and people’s desire to help each other.”
Among the team of volunteers who regularly help out are support workers, the unemployed, university workers, school teachers and retired GPs.
Scottish folk singer Sheena Wellington, who was born in Dundee and sang at the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, is also a member of the group, working on the phone lines and answering calls.
As well as running a food larder the group also help folk out with getting their shopping and prescriptions, as well as running a ‘blether-line’ to provide friendship and support.
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “Around 8am on Thursday, 12 November, officers were called to a report of a break-in on Kingsway East, Dundee. Officers are attending to gather more information.”