FRIENDS and supporters of Larne Adult Centre have voiced their disgust and anger after burglars targeted the highly-respected facility which is attended by people with special needs.
Among items taken were two televisions, a Wii games console, Wii fit and games, rock band drums and two computer monitors.
As well as suffering the loss of valuable equipment – donated through public support – members of the Adult Centre have been left confused and distraught at the thoughtless deed.
Leading the condemnation, the Mayor of Larne, Councillor Bobby McKee, said he was shocked and dismayed at the break-in, adding that those responsible would have known only too well the type of establishment it is.
“It is very disappointing that anyone would do this. The Adult Centre does such good work for adults with special needs and those responsible for this break-in should consider what trouble they have caused.”
Cllr McKee is a keen supporter of the Adult Centre and as well as inviting the Makaton Choir to perform at his Christmas lunch, has chosen it as the recipient of donations from his forthcoming charity breakfast next Wednesday (March 14).
Speaking on behalf of the Friends of Larne Adult Centre, chairman Austin Heatley said everyone was “appalled” at the theft of the equipment.
“These were supplied through the generosity of the local community and have brought great pleasure to the members and helped them develop their confidence.
“The effect of this crime on our members, who are the most vulnerable in our society, has been catastrophic. With an effort, we can replace the missing items but it is going to take a long time to rebuild the sense of security with our members following this violation.
“We can, however learn a lesson from their reaction as they bear no ill will against the criminals,” he said.
The incident has brought widespread condemnation from those with a connection to the centre.
Pauline Robinson said the matter was a shock to everyone, but especially for the members, who were left distraught and very upset.
“Although there are a lot of break-ins in the town, I find it disgusting and unbelievable that anyone would target persons with learning disabilities,” she said.
Margaret Roper said she was angry that someone could steal from the most vulnerable members of our community.
“I just cannot believe how low some people can stoop. To take from people who depend on these items for day-today life enhancement is just appalling.
“It takes considerable fundraising to enable the centre to purchase such items and their ability to replace these is unlikely for some time to come.
“As someone who has a family member at the centre who will be directly affected by this theft, I am absolutely disgusted by this and hope that someone will come forward to the police with information about the perpetrators.
Stephen and Maggie Taggart and their daughter, Claire, who had donated some items to the centre, said that the crime was “beyond belief”.
“All staff, friends and members of Larne Adult Centre are disgusted by these actions and cannot fathom out how anyone could stoop so low,” they said.
A parent of a Larne Adult Centre member told the Larne Times she was “appalled” at how anyone could steal from such a “vulnerable and loving group of people”.
“The adult centre provides the opportunity for many adults with learning disability to integrate into the local community and this has been extremely successful, as most of the Larne community are aware.
“Many members of the centre also have physical disabilities and enjoy the social aspects of attending, meeting their friends on a daily basis, listening to music, playing games, watching TV and generally enjoying the company and chat, that they possibly wouldn’t get otherwise.
“The people who broke into the centre and took away their entertainment equipment, took so much more than a couple of TVs, games consoles and games, all which were donated or purchased by local, generous and good members of the community.
“These adults do not have fast cars, fancy phones and a normal lifestyle that other people of their age have. My daughter attends the centre and likes things in a routine each day. She does not understand why the TV and games are missing, she just knows that her routine has been broken and this leads to frustration and upset.
“When you watch how they write their notes to ask for the simple things in life, then the group come together and fund-raise to make their day, it is very hard when someone takes upon themselves to just break in and steal from the centre. They have no idea of the upset they have caused.
“I hope that the perpetrators are found and made an example of,” the parent said.
A spokesperson for the Northern Trust said: “The Trust is distressed and disturbed about the break-in at Larne Adult Centre and would condemn those who carried out the theft of equipment used by clients at the centre. It is the clients who use the adult centre who suffer from these acts of theft.
“We would appeal to members of the public if they know anything about the thefts to contact the PSNI”.