School uniforms stolen from youth program

August 14, 2009 (CHICAGO) The organization runs on donations. So it was a major setback for the center when someone stole $2500 worth of school uniforms.

The break-in happened sometime between Monday night and Tuesday morning.

The group's executive director didn't even report the robbery to police because she says "who's going to bother looking for stolen pants and shirts." But while 37 pants and a similar number of shirts may not sound like much to lose for the children who are depending on them, it may be the difference between being able to start school on time or not.

"Who would steal school uniforms? I don't get it," said Shari Fenton, executive director, Asian Youth Services.

This is the second time the uptown community center has been broken into. But the timing now couldn't be worse. The uniforms are a must for the group of children, all of whom attend parochial schools thanks to the center's hard work.

"Most of the kids we work with come from low income families, many are on public aid. We provide uniforms, bus fare, school supplies, tuition, book bags," said Fenton.

Primarily serving Chicago's south east Asian community, Asian Youth Services has been around for 18 years providing summer activities and after school programs for low income children. But the small storefront center relies mostly on individual donations and the loss of nearly $2000 in school uniforms is a bitter pill to swallow.

Sokun Kann's two children, 7-year-old Jaylen and 9-year-old Javon, are two of those who've come to rely on the group's help.

"I really can't afford the uniforms," said Kann. "I don't know what I'm going to do. School is starting."

"Our purpose is to empower kids through education. A lot of kids come from families where literacy is a challenge, and they don't get a lot of support at home. I have kids who've gone to college whose parents didn't have any formal education," said Fenton.

Sheri Felton is now struggling to try and raise the money she needs to buy the uniforms all over again. But with some children going back to school as early as August 24, time is quickly running out and her concern is some of these schools will not allow the children into the classroom if they don't have their uniforms.

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