Thieves have been targeting the non-profit Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Burnaby on an unprecedented scale.
Tom Riessner, the store's director of operations, has had previous problems with "binners" breaking in for scrap metal, but the latest string of thefts is like nothing he's seen before.
"They are hauling away large quantities of stuff, and it's definitely not recyclable. It's for reselling," Riessner said.
The latest theft was discovered on Thursday morning, when staff showed up for work.
According to Riessner, the thieves hot-wired a forklift and used it to rip the gate open so they could get a vehicle in, load it up and then drive off with the stolen goods. They took tools the volunteers were using on a local construction project and tools for sale in the store.
Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization, runs ReStore, which sells new and used building supplies to raise money for housing projects for low-income families. The Burnaby store has been in the community for nine years and is run by volunteer labour.
There were also two thefts the previous week, when 20 pairs of new work boots were stolen. They were donated by a corporation and were supposed to go to the volunteers working on 27 town homes in Burnaby for families in need.
"When the volunteer knew new boots were coming, they threw away their old boots," Riessner said. "I doubt we'll get a second (boot donation) this year. That's the one that really hurts."
In all, Riessner estimated he's lost $10,000 in stolen goods and property damage, including repairs for the forklift and gate.
Riessner said they called police after all three break-ins, but there are no leads so far.
In the meantime, Riessner has taken some steps to secure the yard and increase the lighting.
The thefts seem to have hit the volunteers' morale the hardest.
"I have grown a thick skin over the years. It's worse for the volunteers. They work so hard, and something like this takes the wind out of their sails," Riessner said. "We'll talk to the volunteers. We'll let them know they can't take it personally. We let them know there are people in the world who don't look at non-profits the way they do. ... It's very disheartening actually. They are trying to build something really great, and to have this kind of thoughtlessness, it's sad."