Shreveport nonprofit struck by thief during 'Give for Good'

Shreveport nonprofit struck by thief during 'Give for Good'
The Renzi Educaiton and Art Center has been providing free academic and art classes to at-risk kids since 1997. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)
The Renzi Educaiton and Art Center has been providing free academic and art classes to at-risk kids since 1997. (Source: Nick Lawton, KSLA)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - During "Give for Good" on Tuesday, the Shreveport nonprofit Renzi Education and Art Center was collecting donations outside a Starbucks in the 4800 block of Line Avenue when a thief struck around 1:45 p.m.

Normally, "Give for Good" calls for online donations to be made to local nonprofits, but a technical glitch on that day called for the need for physical donations.

"People were unable to do the websites via the online system so they had just given us cash donations," recalled the Renzi Center's Executive Director, Sarah Touchstone.

That was when Touchstone said a thief chose to capitalize on the cash being out in the open.

"The person ran up and grabbed the jar and ran like lightning!" she said.

Shreveport police report the man grabbed the jar containing $400.

"I saw red and the moment I saw that happen, I chased the guy down behind Giuseppe's and out behind the place where he got into a getaway car," said Renzi Center's Program Director, Hillary Frazier.

Employees of nearby stores described the thief as a light-skinned man with a shaved head and neck tattoo. Starbucks employees told us he had become a regular of their store in the last few days. They reported he would be there every day, often sitting outside when employees arrived to open the store at 5 a.m.

Starbucks issued us this statement:

"We are disappointed to have learned of the incident that occurred outside our store yesterday.  We will defer to the local authorities on requests for further information."

Police have now opened an investigation.

Nonprofit leaders said the money that was stolen would have paid the salaries of two of their 25 teachers.

"When you work for a nonprofit who gives free academic and art classes to kids in a high-risk area, you're kind of in shock," Touchstone said.

The good news is that when nearby customers heard the news, they immediately stepped up.

"They just reached into their pockets and they actually just pulled out donations," said Frazier.

Within 15 minutes, Touchstone reported people gave the Renzi Center $350. Though that isn't quite enough to make up for what the thief took, she said she hopes this action will serve as an inspiration for the center's 50 students.

"They see a lot of people in their immediate surroundings resorting to violence, to crime. We want to show them that there is more," said Touchstone.

Touchstone said they have submitted an official police incident report to the Community Foundation of Northwest Louisiana, which leads "Give for Good."

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