BUCKHANNON – The director of the Upshur Parish House has a message for a few Upshur County residents, and it’s not one she relishes delivering: Anyone who steals items from The Clothes Closet will be prosecuted.
Alicia Rapking, executive director of the Upshur Parish House and Crosslines, Inc., said Wednesday she’s saddened and discouraged by the nightly occurrence of people stealing from the back porch of The Clothes Closet.
The Clothes Closet is open Monday-Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., but people frequently drop off donations at night.
The problem is, that’s exactly when individuals tend to steal donated items, which Rapking says happens nearly every night.
“It’s a nightly occurrence,” Rapking said, “but we have just recently upgraded our security system, so we are now catching people’s faces, and I just think that the community needs to know that.”
Rapking said law enforcement has been contacted, and while a warrant is already out on one individual who’s been identified, police are still searching for another person with a tattoo of a marijuana leaf on her or his hand.
“That’s a pretty distinctive tattoo, if people saw that,” Rapking said.
Rapking also wants the Buckhannon-Upshur community to donate with care and not treat the back porch of The Closet like a dumpster. When unsellable items are dropped off – such as mattresses – the Parish House and Crosslines is forced to foot the bill of disposing of the items at the waste transfer station on Mud Lick Road.
“This costs us hundreds of dollars a month, which means that that is money we can’t put back into the community,” Rapking said. “We have had garbage expenses up to a $1,000 before, so if it’s stuff that’s garbage that we can’t sell, we get stuck with the bill.
“It may not seem like a lot to people, but it literally costs us hundreds of dollars a month because not only are we paying for transfer costs out at the transfer station, we are also losing items that we can’t sell [when people steal them after hours].”
Electronics, she said, are a prime example.
“For instance, the other night, someone took some electronics off the porch, and that means we can’t sell them, and that may not mean a lot to a lot of people, but the money that we have coming from The Clothes Closet is money that pays the bills for the Parish House, that keeps the heat going and all that kind of stuff and pays the part-time people’s salaries.”
“It is what allows us to take everything we get from Crosslines and put [it back] into the community, and we also put money from The Clothes Closet back into the community,” she explained, “and so by people stealing from us – or making it so we have to pay extra money – we are taking out of what we can do for the community, and it is discouraging for me.
“It’s discouraging for me, it’s discouraging for Stella Harvey, our manager at the Clothes Closet, so we just want people to know that we have upgraded security systems, and we will prosecute even though that’s not something we’re in the business of doing … but when hundreds of dollars are not getting to people who are in need, it’s discouraging to us.”
Residents can help by calling The Clothes Closet at 304-471-2290 to make an appointment if they plan on dropping off valuable items or checking ahead of time to see if they items they want to donate are ones that can be sold to people in need.
“Call us and we’ll be honest and tell you if we can sell it,” Rapking said. “There are certain things by law we can’t sell, such as mattresses. By law, we can’t sell those. If the community has a question about what they’re donating – about whether we can use it and sell it – please call us.”
The Upshur Parish House is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday, and anyone with information or questions may call 304-472-0743.
Crosslines is an ecumenical ministry located within the Parish House and is a mission project of the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, according to the Parish House’s website, www.parishhouse.org.
It supplies people in need with food, emergency aid to cover the cost of utilities, clothing vouchers, assistance with medical costs and home repair and much more.