‘Outpouring of support’ for LaOtto fire department after fundraising money stolen

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LAOTTO, Ind. (WANE) — The LaOtto Volunteer Fire Department asked the public for help, and the community has responded.

Over the weekend, someone stole the department’s dropbox where money from sales for live Christmas trees, a large annual fundraiser for the department, was kept.

According to the department, the money raised was to be used to buy equipment to serve citizens, and run day-to-day operations for the volunteer fire department.

“Every year we have the Christmas tree sale out here, ” said Capt. Britton Burkhart. “For the convenience of the community to be able to pick up the trees when they wanted to, we put a locked money box attached to door No. 2.”

Burkhart said a member of the community contacted the department on Sunday to let them know that the box was missing. Burkhart said he suspects whoever stole it took the box sometime after 6:30 p.m. on Saturday. The box likely had hundreds of dollars inside, he said.

Burkhart said since the box was taken, though, the community has reached out to the department nonstop trying to help.

“We haven’t had much as far as leads on who did it, but what we have had is local individuals, individuals from the surrounding community, offering to either drop off donations, offering to mail in donations.”

One person from Silver Lake offered to mail a donation to the department, Burkhart said.

Another resident of LaOtto contacted the department because local businesses wanted to band together to replace whatever amount of money was missing. Another gentleman who used to live in the area, and now runs a restaurant in Tennessee, has offered to donate dinners to the department to raffle off to raise money.

Others have reached out to help with security.

“We’ve had a couple companies that have offered to aid us some way in hooking up surveillance or adding some cameras to the facility so that we can, hopefully, prevent this from happening again,” Burkhart added.

“We’ve had quite an outpouring of support from the community which has really been nice to see.”

The fire department purchased a replacement dropbox and installed it Monday afternoon so people could still purchase Christmas trees.

Authorities are encouraging anyone who dropped a check in the box between 6 p.m. on Nov. 30 to 8 a.m. on Dec 1. to allow that check to cash and notify the fire department once it does go through, Burkhart said.

Anyone with information on who stole the box is asked to call the LaOtto Volunteer Fire Department at (260) 897-2286 or the Noble County Sheriff’s Department at (260) 636-2182.

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