A CHARITY that helps young people with learning difficulties train for employment has been targeted by thieves.
The Beneficial Foundation had its donation bottle stolen from next to the till at its craft shop on Anson Road, Milton.
The large plastic Coke bottle was about 2ft 6in tall and was thought to contain around £40.
All cash collected from the bottle is used to buy items for the students from the charity’s wish list.
This money would have bought them a DVD player with a screen to showcase the charity’s work in the shop.
Jennie Brent, the organisation’s chief executive, said: ‘The shop was really busy and the man who was running it at the time has mild learning disabilities – he is slightly autistic.
‘Someone obviously saw the opportunity to take the bottle and took advantage of it.
‘The sad thing is that there can’t have been more than £40 in it, but it has made the students really upset.
‘That money is for them and they can’t believe someone would just take it away from them.
‘It’s so frustrating because it’s such a small amount of money, but it’s had a huge effect on them emotionally. They really take these sorts of things to heart.’
As well as the shop, the foundation runs a warehouse – which provides education facilities and craft materials – and a cafe from the site where students with learning disabilities or difficult backgrounds can gain work experience.
It also has a mock-up house and garden at the centre used to teach students essential living skills and how to grow food.
Desperate to retrieve the stolen cash and the donation bottle, workers at the charity are urging readers with any information to get in contact.
Nick Bush, the centre’s operations manager, said: ‘It was just small change, but people donated it to us and their generosity has been taken advantage of.
‘That makes me feel very disappointed.
‘Some people come into the store specially to hand in donations. It’s just so sad that’s been taken away from them.’
Police confirmed the theft took place between 9.30am and 5pm on Monday.
A Hampshire Constabulary spokeswoman said: ‘We can confirm that a large plastic coke bottle containing £40 was stolen from the Beneficial Foundation.
‘Police are continuing to investigate and urging any witnesses to come forward.’
Anyone with information should contact police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.