SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The nonprofit organization EmployAbility recently became the latest victims of thieves who steal catalytic converters.

“So for us, it was we got hit, how bad is it? And it was 14 vehicles,” said Brendan Ferrara who is the CEO of EmployAbility.

Ferrara says converters were stolen from 13 transportation vans, which are needed to transport clients to their facility for classes. The agency serves those who are intellectually and developmentally disabled. Ferrara says the vans are like lifelines to the many they serve.

But now most of the fleet is damaged, and they are seeking donations for all the repairs.

Mike Calonita, the facilities manager of EmployAbility, says the thefts took place a few weekends ago and that he knew immediately what had happened when he heard employees starting the vans Monday morning.

“It sounds like being on a Nascar race track. Once they all get started, it’s deafening,” he said.

Calonita says it’s still hard to accept that thieves damaged so many vehicles.

“Especially, the wheelchair buses, because you need them to get someone in a wheelchair here,” he said. “And when I realized they did that, that was even more heartbreaking.”

Vans are easy to hit because thieves crawl underneath vehicles to cut out the converter, and they sell a part of the converter.

About $2,500 has already been spent to repair three converters, but more is needed for repairs and for new security fencing and lighting.

“It was two years ago that we had a van stolen, so we’re just a target,” said Ferrara. “So what we’re going to have to do is at some point is get a fencing system back here to protect the vans — keep people from stealing the catalytic converter or from stealing the van.”

Ferrara says the vans are crucial in helping them serve clients who are transported daily to the facility and that as COVID restrictions ease, they expect up to 100 people to need transportation soon.

“Between putting the vans back on the road and putting the fencing, we’re going to need about $30,000,” said Ferrara.