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Theft leaves VFW $5,000 poorer

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Money stolen during a theft from a Greenwood veterans organization now won’t be able to help veterans in need.

When a veteran needs money for food or gasoline or other small expenses, the Greenwood VFW gives them some quick cash from its relief fund.

On June 5, someone broke into the Greenwood Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5864 and stole about $5,000 in cash. The money taken would have gone to aid for veterans, scholarships for local high school students and part of the cost to reroof one of the post buildings, incoming commander Steve Milbourn said.

Outside of paying utilities and operating costs to run the bar, all of the money raised by the VFW goes back into the community, he said. Last year the VFW gave $8,500 in relief to local veterans, four $1,000 scholarships to high school seniors and more than $1,500 in prizes for its Patriot Pens and Voice of Democracy essay contests at area schools. The VFW has about 450 members, plus another 325 people in the women’s and men’s auxiliary groups, Milbourn said.

After someone pried open the cash box and stole the money on June 5, the VFW is now spending money to put new safes in the building and install a security system, Milbourn said.

He said the building’s security was pretty lax, but he wouldn’t have expected someone to burglarize the VFW, which sits just across the street from the Greenwood Police Department.

“It’s like someone would not only spit in your face but then turn around and slap you. To me, if you rob an organization that helps other people, you’re the lowest low-life on Earth. That doesn’t make sense. I truly don’t understand it,” he said.

A bartender working the night before the theft noticed someone was trying to tamper with the door before she left work.

The north door of the building was propped open with coasters at one point, and later someone had taped down the door latch so that the door wouldn’t seal, according to a police report.

The bartender left after midnight on June 5, and when a member arrived about 8:30 a.m., he noticed someone had broken into the cabinet where the money was kept.

Police are still investigating the incident and can’t release more details about the case, Greenwood Assistant Police Chief Matt Fillenwarth said.

The detective assigned to the case is still interviewing people, he said.

The money stolen in the break-in won’t bankrupt any of the programs the VFW runs, but losing that much money certainly impacts the organization’s ability to help the community, Milbourn said. Roof repairs on an outdoor picnic area, which would cost about $5,000, will probably have to be put off because of the theft, he said.

Typically the VFW will give a little bit of money to veterans who are struggling to pay their bills or have an unexpected expense they need help with, Milbourn said.

People who need more than that can make a request the members will consider, he said.

Anyone who received aid isn’t required to pay back the money, and Milbourn said the post doesn’t have a high level of scrutiny when people ask for help.

Aside from the annual scholarships and essay contests the VFW runs, the group also helps raise money for local projects.

The members helped raise about $12,000 earlier this year so that Greenwood resident Dawn Piercy, who suffers from multiple medical conditions from gene mutations after her father was exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam, could buy a new van.

“What we’ll have to do is dig deeper into our pockets and move money from a couple of other areas. We’ll make sure those (programs) are bolstered,” Milbourn said.

The organization is also seeking donations to help make up for the loss.

“Anything, whether it’s a buck or anything, would be appreciated,” Milbourn said.

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