A Burgess Hill scout group have been ‘blown away’ by support from the community who have rallied to raise funds to replace vital equipment stolen from the group.
Overnight on Monday, March 4, heartless thieves broke into an outbuilding at St Andrew’s Community Centre in Cants Lane, Burgess Hill – used by the 7th Burgess Hill Scout Group.
A number of items were stolen – including a £500 gazebo which the group use almost every weekend during the hiking season.
Steve Lewsey, chairman of the group, said: “All of us at 7th Burgess Hill Scout Group have been overwhelmed by the support offered by the local community and local businesses.
“We are the only scout group in Mid Sussex without our own premises and as such, the store is on the back of a church.
“The leaders and exec committee work extremely hard for the group, and I could not ask for a stronger, more passionate, team to work with.
It angers me – these are youngsters putting something back into the society and this is stuff that we work tirelessly for.Steve Lewsey, chairman of the 7th Burgess Hill Scout Group
“We have gone from a struggling group just a few years ago to a group that has every section full, with enough young people on our waiting list to set up another beaver section.”
Steve, who lives in Burgess Hill. announced the theft on Facebook and set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds to replace the equipment. Almost £1,000 was raised in just one day.
“I am blown away – me and the group,” said Steve.
“Messages were going mad – we had about 20 to 30 gazebo offers. I can’t express enough how thankful we are.”
Steve, who has been chairman for over three years, said it is the third time thieves have targeted the building.
“They come well-equipped – they know what they are doing,” he said.
“It angers me – these are youngsters putting something back into the society and this is stuff that we work tirelessly for, to ensure our children have the opportunity to experience what scouting has to offer.”
He said the church is in the process of getting a grant for CCTV, which would help deter thieves.
Mark Scholfield, group secretary, said the theft was a ‘real kick in the teeth’: “At the time of writing we’ve had donations from 31 different people including significant contributions from Quench Bar and Kitchen, Incorpore Limited, Burgess Hill Cricket Club and Mansell McTaggart which is simply overwhelming.
“We’ve grown from a handful of young people in beavers, cubs and scouts to a current membership of 74 young persons with a further 51 on the waiting list or register of interest.
“It has been an emotional journey but one we are fiercely proud of. We even now have two young leaders who have gone through our ranks in to the explorers and have come back to help out with our cubs section.
“Many of those 51 on the waiting lists have to wait for spaces to open up before we can bring them in to beavers because we have no more nights available to us to create a new Beaver section.
“To then have the storage area broken in to and significant items stolen is a real kick in the teeth.
“Like Steve, I’d really like to call out the community spirit that has seen parents, friends, businesses and other local groups rally to our cause and raise almost £1k in one day.
“In these testing times it is heartwarming to see such positivity come out of such a bad situation.”
A Sussex Police spokesman said: “A concrete outbuilding at St Andrew’s Community Centre, Cants Lane, Burgess Hill, was broken into between 9pm on Monday, March 4, and 10.30am the following day.
“A gazebo worth £500 and belonging to local scouts was stolen.
“Anyone who saw or heard anything suspicious, or who may have other information concerning the burglary, is asked to contact Sussex Police on 101, quoting serial 421 of 05/03.”
If you would like to make a donation to the scout group, visit www.gofundme.com/replacement-kit-7th-burgess-hill-scout-group.