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More than 100 donated laptops and tablets stolen in break-ins at Calgary youth organization

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The man behind a grassroots not-for-profit in Forest Lawn says he’s devastated after two break-ins this week targeting used laptops and tablets along with bikes and art equipment.

Thieves struck twice at the Youth Empowerment and Skills Center based at Forest Lawn Community Center in the city’s southeast, targeting donated items destined for at-risk youth and low-income families.

“It’s taken us back to zero. This person took the log that we were floating with and just let us drown,” said Gar Gar, executive director of the YES Center, which has been running in the community for the past seven years.

“I’m really devastated and really sad,” said Gar. “We have to start all over again.”

Gar says someone cut the locks and forced their way inside the center before coming back a second time, taking 74 donated laptops, 29 laptops that were being checked over for technical issues, 23 new Google Chromebooks, 10 iPads used by kids visiting the center and 14 donated iPads due to be handed out to at-risk youth in the local community.

Also taken were eight MacBooks used by kids exploring art and music, four more Apple laptops, 20 Bluetooth headsets and 25 LED bike lights along with several donated bicycles and art supplies.

A painting by a youth at the YES Centre, where art supplies were among the items targeted by thieves this week in back-to-back break-ins. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

“People give these things because they believe it will help another person. One program was helping people looking for a job, using the computer to work on resumes and apply for jobs. Everything taken here was not just simply [a] computer or a device or a bike, it’s something that could better somebody’s life,” said Gar.

The laptop donation program started during the pandemic when kids needed access to laptops with schools switching to online learning.

Gar says he reported the incident to the police and has a CCTV video of one of the intruders. Three locks were cut and left at the scene and a door was forced open.

Gar says his insurance doesn’t cover donated items.

While he waits to see if there’s anything the police can do, he hopes the thieves responsible might rethink their actions.

“I urge them, regardless of what made them do this, to have a kind heart and to say ‘I’m going to bring it back, I’m going to do the right thing,'” said Gar.

He says if the items are gone for good he will have to start from scratch.

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