BROOKLYN CENTER (WCCO) — At first glance, the cars in a lot off Brooklyn Boulevard may look old or forgotten. But to Kelly Buttler and Cars for Courage, they represent a new chance. So, she was shocked when a thief stole a car directly from their lot.
Buttler runs the Cars for Courage program, where every filled parking spot benefits the Courage Center in Minneapolis. Profits from donated cars go directly to rehabilitation for people with disabilities.
“We were just surprised somebody would steal from those who need it most,” said Buttler, Director of In-Kind Giving for the Courage Center.
Surveillance cameras picked up what happened on Sunday March 25th, in the afternoon when the lot is normally closed.
“It was stolen on Sunday and it wasn’t until Tuesday morning we realized it was missing,” said Buttler.
She points to the security video, that shows a man in a white pickup truck park pull in the lot, get out and survey the area, then poke through a lock box, before peering right in the front door.
Soon the driver backed his truck up to a white 1994 Grand Am. The Brooklyn Center Police say he used a black repo-style wheel lift to attach the car, and towed it right out of the lot.
“You know, it seems like somebody that knows what he is doing, and it doesn’t seem like this is the first time he has stolen a vehicle,” said Buttler.
Buttler says the car was worth $1,000 – money she says goes a long way to provide therapy like pool therapy, occupational and speech therapy and even services in the home.
She long believed in the mission of the Courage Center during her decade of work for the organization, but Buttler says last year, she learned firsthand how critical the care is, when her husband accidentally fell in the backyard while raking in the garden.
“(He) had a brain hemorrhage, which left him paralyzed with weakness on the left side,” Buttler said. He’s now going through therapy at the Courage Center.
Buttler realizes the car may never be recovered, but worries now the patient’s recovery is the true target.
“I was so disappointed somebody would steal from us, we work really hard to raise dollars that are very critical in support of Courage Center programs and services,” she said. “Just given the economy and everything going on, we are struggling right now, working hard for every penny we do raise and that is why it is so disappointing to get $1,000 get stolen off your lot.”
Buttler says donations to Cars for Courage were down 35 percent at the end of 2011. She hopes more donations can make up for the loss.
Cars for Courage accepts any vehicle that can be resold.
They offer free towing and also accept lots of items like RVs, boats, snowmobiles and clothes. Donations are tax deductible. Learn more here.
Brooklyn Center Police are investigating and would like to hear from anyone with information about the man in the video, who they say appears to be a white man with short hair, driving a white standard cab pickup with a metal tool box in the back.