SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Less than two months ago, Brendan Ferrara, the president and CEO of EmployAbility was dealing with the theft of 14 catalytic converters from the nonprofit agency’s transportation vans. Now he’s dealing with the theft of five more.
“We’re not open on weekends and when we came in on Monday and started up the first van we heard the unfortunate all too familiar sound,” said Ferrara.
That’s the sound of a very loud vehicle stripped of the converter. Of the five vehicles damaged over the weekend, four of them were their wheelchair accessible vans.
“All four vans that have wheelchair accessibility are impacted so at this point we have handful of participants that we’re not able to serve until we get them fixed,” said Ferrara.
He says at this point they’re trying to raise about $60,000 for repairs to the vehicles and also for security fencing and lighting.
Mike Calonita, the agency’s director of facilities and transportation said they have never had to tell their clients before that they could not provide transportation.
“We had to make calls and say ‘we can’t come’ today. If you’re able to transport in, fine, but most families do not have a wheelchair accessible van,” said Calonita..”
He told us that the cost of repairs may not just be the expense of a new catalytic converter but that in some cases mufflers and even censors have been damaged. but a muffler and even damage to censors.
After the first theft Employability received permission to park several vans on a vacant lot much closer to a busy street with lights. The hope was that the visibility would prevent thieves from trying again.
“It was a temporary fix and unfortunately it didn’t work.” said Ferrara.
He says the community has already been generous and offered donations but now they need to raise so much more. Ferrara says anything people can do, even a small donation, would be appreciated.
The agency has filed two police reports regarding the stolen converters but isn’t holding out hope the thieves will ever be caught.