Lysa Allison sat in her office at the Cornerstone Rescue Mission's administrative building on Friday morning, surrounded by giant, noisy fans working to dry flooded carpets and office supplies moved into the room after a burglar targeted the nonprofit Wednesday evening. 

"It could have been so much worse, we're just very fortunate," said Allison, executive director of the nonprofit that runs homeless shelters and a thrift store to support its work.

The unidentified male suspect — who was seen on surveillance tapes — broke in around 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday and stayed for about two hours, she said. After breaking through a fence, the man entered a partially opened door at the thrift store on 11th Street where he stole and drank several sodas before stealing a hammer and drill. 

He then broke through several doors to enter and walk through the adjacent administrative building where he used the stolen tools to break into a metal safe, Allison said. He stole less than $1,000 in cash and gift cards the organization was saving to give to homeless children on Christmas. The suspect then accidentally or purposefully set off the sprinkler in the safe room, which "totally ruined" a computer and phone, damaged financial records needed for audits, and flooded the entire administrative building, much of which is carpeted. 

The sprinkler going off triggered the fire alarm which alerted police, Allison said. Police found the damaged safe and took it into evidence and collected surveillance videos. Allison then called a company that brought fans, helped clean up the offices, and moved furniture and supplies around to dry.

There was no more water on the floor by Friday morning, but carpet appeared damp, some walls were discolored, and drying documents and furniture were strewn about as the fans worked to dry the administrative building. 

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Some office supplies were moved into the thrift store to dry so about half of the store is off limits to shoppers. That means lost revenue that goes to support the Mission's shelter for women and children, Allison said. Administrative staff have also lost wages since "you can't work with all the fans going on" or find supplies since everything has been moved around. 

Allison estimated the burglar caused at least $10,000 in damages if you add up the stolen cash and cards, destroyed and damaged items, lost wages and revenue, and cleanup supplies. She said she hopes insurance will cover most of the damage.

"There's people out there that are going to do things like this," Allison said when asked what she makes of someone targeting a nonprofit that helps homeless and vulnerable people.

Reflecting the Christian organization she serves, Allison said she is praying for the suspect. "I guess the way I look at is you know their life is pretty tough to have to resort to" burglary.

Half of the thrift store remains open and the nonprofit is still accepting donations, Allison said. She hopes the store and administrative building will fully reopen on Monday.

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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