Thieves steal from free faith-based after-school program in Springfield

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. For 19 years, Bridges for Youth has been a caring and safe place for kids ages six to 18 to hang out after school at one of its four locations in Springfield.

"A lot of folks can't pay to send their kids to a program after school," explained Bridges For Youth executive director Steve Hare.

The faith-based organization runs entirely on donations so that families can send their kids for free; about 400 children attend one of the four programs.

"We teach the lessons of the Bible," said Hare. "The Bible is full of great lessons on how to live your life, and that's what we do here at Bridges."

On Friday night, criminals shattered a window at the N National Ave., location and swiped hundreds of dollars worth of goodies, which are sold to raise money to keep the lights on.

"We sell a little bit of candy in our snack bar to try to pay a couple of the bills. I mean, it's not very much, but it's maybe a $100 a month we make off the candy, but it might be enough to pay a utility bill," said Hare.

Before that burglary, thieves smashed a window and broke into the agency's building on W Nichols St. and Franklin Ave. They rifled through drawers and stole cash, as well as candy. That was the second time burglars hit that location; Hare said, "It keeps happening again and again."

As the organization reels from these crimes, it's also struggling to make ends meet.

"The worst part is that we were kind of in a donation crisis before this started, and we're still not out of it yet, and we need like $4,600," Hare proclaimed.

Hare, perhaps surprisingly, is not angry--he's hopeful. "I think God a lot of times uses bad things to make good things happen," he said.

Anyone with information on these crimes should contact Springfield police.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.