Mesa foster kids program gets air conditioning unit stolen

With temperatures about to hit 100 degrees, thieves apparently hopped an iron fence over the weekend to steal the air conditioning unit at Helen’s Hope Chest, the Mesa United Way’s program for foster children.

The thieves cut open the unit and removed the parts, including the motor and copper wiring and fittings, said Richard James, the Mesa United Way’s director of finance.

“Whoever did this is real good at it,” he said. “It was professional.”

Claudia Walters, vice president of Mesa United Way, said Helen’s Hope Chest was open this morning, but may have to close as temperatures soar. The program is a boutique where foster children can pick out new and used clothing, books and shoes donated by the public and by corporations.

Last year, Helen’s Hope Chest served 3,000 children last year. The program was launched after the state cut clothing allowances for foster parents two years ago. Volunteers In Service to America employees converted a closed Mesa housing office into a rare bonanza for needy children despite the recession.

“It’s going to hit over 100 degrees on Wednesday. It’s going to get worst fast,” Walters said. “I’m thinking it’s like the guy who stole Christmas, the Grinch. I think this is someone who just thinks about themselves.”

Sgt. Ed Wessing, a Mesa police spokesman, said the thieves left no fingerprints, making the theft difficult to investigate. He said the gate was not damaged, so thieves likely lifted the parts over the fence to steal them.

“These people were pretty intent on taking it. There’s not much you can do,” he said.

James said the entire unit needs to be replaced and he is waiting to hear from an air conditioning company about the cost. The Mesa United Way is seeking contributions to help pay for a new ground-mounted unit. Anyone wishing to help should contact James at 480-834-2109.