Habitat project particularly disturbing

It wouldn't matter if the person or persons who absconded with three air-conditioning units from a LowCountry Habitat for Humanity job site earlier this month had stolen from a millionaire.

Theft is wrong, period.

But this particular robbery couldn't happen at a worse time for an organization that has done so much to help our community.

The theft came as Habitat officials and volunteers were racing to finish the homes on Ernest Drive before an April 30 grant deadline, said Brenda Dooley, executive director of LowCountry Habitat for Humanity. The $50,000 grant covers the infrastructure costs of the homes, where work began in October to build the three houses on one parcel.

"I think we're still going to meet the deadline, but it's going to be very close," Dooley said.

Insurance will pay for most of the stolen property, which was worth about $6,000, but Habitat will have to cover a $2,000 deductible at a time when every penny is precious to nonprofit groups.

Stealing air-conditioning units is not a simple crime of opportunity -- it requires forethought to cart away such a bulky object -- but they can yield copper and aluminum elements that can be sold as scrap metal, authorities say.

And the crime is more common than you think. For instance, this newspaper reported four similar thefts -- one on Hilton Head Island, another on St. Helena Island and two in Burton -- in just the past month.

It is especially galling to strike an organization trying to help others. Last year's theft of $6,500 in computer and other electronic equipment from the Literacy Volunteers of the Lowcountry's Beaufort Learning Center also struck us as heartless.

Habitat officials and the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office are asking for help in finding those responsible for stealing the Habitat units. If you know something that might be useful to those investigating this theft or others, call the Beaufort County Dispatch Center at 843-524-2777.

We should all do our part to thwart anyone who would steal, particularly those who would steal from the neediest among us.