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A grinch with bolt cutters stole over $2,000 from a Boy Scout Troop's fundraiser; then folks helped

DAVID F. ASHTON  - After rallying from their burglary losses, with the help of generous donations from the community, the Boy Scout Troop 351 Christmas Tree lot remains open in Westmoreland. It was expected to be a bright Holiday Season for the families who volunteer to support the Christmas Tree sales of Boy Scout Troop 351, at the lot set up in the Wells Fargo Bank parking lot in Westmoreland, when they closed for business the evening of December 7.

But, when they reopened for business on the evening of Friday, December 8, they discovered that thieves had used wire cutters to snip away the edge of the steel chain link fence that surrounds the compound and, once inside, they made off with about $2,000 worth of essential supplies – including a generator, a computer tablet with a "Square" reader for taking credit cards, a sound system, and a chainsaw.

"They even took stuff of virtually no value, like an empty cash box," sighed volunteer Patty Fink, as she fashioned plastic bins into a makeshift till.

"This lot – and our other one up on S.E. 42nd Avenue and Powell Boulevard, at St. Ignatius, where the troop is based – supports all of the activities of the boys do, from camping, to hiking, to boating, to rock climbing; the families don't pay for their Scouts to participate, we do fundraising instead," Fink told THE BEE.

"When we discovered the burglary, it was a really 'hard hit' for us – and hurt our morale more than anything else," Fink said.

"But then – it's really warmed our hearts, honestly, and put tears of joy in our eyes – the community has really come out to support us," added Fink.

Taking a quick break from helping customers, Assistant Scoutmaster Tom Ustach explained they they'd been worried how the burglary could impact the Scouts' activities in the coming year, because the tree lot is their main fundraiser.

"But then, we've gotten donations of equipment and substantial funds; families have been coming in buying trees and wreaths, and also donating money because they said they felt badly about what had happened," Ustach said.

"What I've learned from this experience is how much people support Scouting, and the programs the Boy Scouts provide that help young people learn and grow," Ustach commented; "and, I've also learned that there's more good than bad in this world!"

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