Literacy group figures burglar could have used their help

Cindi Riley believes those responsible for stealing thousands of dollars worth of computers from a Beaufort nonprofit literacy agency could have used the organization's help.

"Whoever did this probably didn't have the literacy skills they need to get a job and lawfully provide for themselves and their family, so they're out stealing," said Riley, assistant executive director of Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry.

Between Friday afternoon and Sunday, burglars broke into the agency's office on Prince Street and stole more than $6,500 in electronics, including seven of the 10 computers used to teach adults to read and write, according to a Beaufort police report.

"It's heartbreaking," Riley said. "We know that the economy's bad, but we're just trying to help people. They weren't the latest and greatest computers. We had just enough to do what we needed."

Though insurance will pay to replace the computers, the theft disrupted programs, said executive director Nancy Williams.

"Our services have been interrupted and compromised," Williams said. "Our sense of violation is shared by our staff, board, volunteers, donors and students alike."

Riley said that before the theft, the office could serve up to eight students a day, but now can serve only two.

Investigators say the burglar entered through a broken window near the back of the building. No suspects have been identified, and police are unsure how many people were involved.

The theft comes at an inopportune time for Literacy Volunteers, which like many charities, has seen its budget shrink and private donations slow to a trickle in the recession, Williams said.

Contributions from the United Way of the Lowcountry and private donors are expected to account for 88 percent of the nonprofit's $339,800 budget this year. The agency plans to serve more than 900 students this year at its offices in Beaufort and Bluffton and on Hilton Head Island.

Got a tip?

Anyone with information on the burglary is asked to call the Beaufort Police Department's Tip Line at 843-322-7938