Heartless thieves broke into churches and community centres in Poulton, causing hundreds of pounds of damage and stealing charity cash meant for war veterans and their families.
Poulton Methodist Church and the 60+ Community Centre on Queensway, and St Chad’s Church and the Vicarage Park Community Centre, on Vicarage Road, were all broken into on Thursday night.
Charity boxes, bottles of gin, and money paid for votive candles were stolen during the spree.
Two collection boxes containing more than a week’s worth of donations for the Royal British Legion were stolen from the Methodist Church cafe.
Rev Paul Critchley said: “We’re not quite sure how they got in but they seemed to know what they were looking for. We are very upset really. Breaks happen, it’s a fact of life. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
“We are more upset over the money that’s been taken for the British Legion and the damage that’s been done to the church. All we’d ask is that money gets returned.”
Churchgoer Alan Sykes said: “It’s very sad that whoever has done this would break into a church and take money which is meant for charity, particularly this charity at this time of year.”
An estimated £75 in cash, collected for the Royal British Legion and the Alzheimers Society, was stolen from the 60+ Community Centre.
Trustee Barry Birch said: “They have gone straight for the charity box. It’s a terrible blow and whoever has done it should be ashamed of their actions.”
Seven bottles of gin worth £130 were stolen from the Vicarage Park Community Centre.
Hall manager Jean Parkes, said: “They didn’t take anything except the bottles of gin. There was a lot of Prosecco in there and they didn’t touch any of that.
“The police have been here and they can’t find any sign of a break-in.
“When I left it was all locked up. They must have been hiding in the toilets. We don’t know any other way they could have done it.
“The trustees are all really quite angry because it’s not as though we make a lot of money. We only just reopened after five years. We don’t charge very much for the hall because we are subsidised by the bar takings.”
And at St Chad’s Parish Church, money donated by churchgoers as payment for votive candles was stolen from a candle box.
Everyone The Gazette spoke to said they had reported the break-ins to the police, but police were only able to locate one of them in their records.
A force spokesman said: “At 5.30am we had reports of a burglary at the Methodist Church (on Queensway).
"They have got inside via the church door and they have gained access to a coffee shop. The collection boxes for the poppy collection have been taken and the till has been emptied.”
Call 101 with information.