Elderly and frail people were left without a meal after a day care centre’s minibus was rendered useless by thieves.
Staff at the St Ives Day Care Centre could not pick up their members on Wednesday (May 28) after the exhaust was stolen from the Mercedes Sprinter.
Centre manager Don Moorman said: “I am appalled that anyone could do that. There’s a sign right down the side of the bus which says ‘St Ives Day Care Centre’.
“It’s perfectly clear it’s a specialised vehicle. I’m amazed anyone could be so callous.”
The theft, which is thought to have happened sometime overnight between last Tuesday and Wednesday morning, meant the bus, which had been parked outside the centre, could not be used.
“We had to close the day centre because without the bus we couldn’t pick up the members,” added Mr Moorman. “It’s specially adapted, has a tail lift and room for wheelchairs.
“It meant some of our members probably didn’t eat and spent the day alone.”
Mr Moorman, who has managed the centre for three years, said they realised something was wrong when they started up the bus. “It sounded like a speedboat and there were lots of fumes, so we thought there must be a problem with the exhaust.
“We took it to the garage and they said we had lost all the exhaust and the catalytic converter – it had been nicked.”
Linda Cammish, one of the centre’s trustees, added: “We think it’s a dreadful thing to happen. You don’t expect something so awful to happen to a charity. That minibus is used for a very worthy cause.”
A vehicle was loaned to the centre for Thursday and Friday (May 29 and 30) but Mr Moorman said he was unsure what would happen about this week.
The charity has been helping elderly people, many of whom are frail and live alone, since 1979 and moved from the Free Church in St Ives to Ramsey Road in 1996.
Staffed mostly by volunteers, the centre is open Monday to Friday and helps nearly 80 people a week, who enjoy a meal and entertainment. “We are a social centre here to provide a place of safety to make sure our members get a decent meal,” said Mr Moorman.
“They can enjoy some company so they are not stuck at home in front of the TV.
“Our members are upset and disappointed about the theft. It’s a very unsettling thing for them.”
A police spokesman said: “To target a vehicle which is used for such good work in the community is a particularly low act and we would urge anyone with information to call police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.”
INFORMATION: If anyone would like to volunteer at the centre, call Mr Moorman on 01480 463444.