BILLINGS — Staff at Billings Community Foundation were still tallying the losses on Monday after a weekend burglary left the nonprofit's historic downtown Billings building ransacked and more than $13,000 of electronics and other items stolen.
“Every time we turn around. We realize that something else is gone. That there is an iPad missing. All of the mice to our computers were gone. We went to clean up the mess and realized that our Dyson vacuum is missing. I think we’ll actually be tabulating and itemizing things for quite a while," said Lauren Wright, executive director for the foundation.
The disarray was discovered on Nov. 22, the Monday before Thanksgiving. A tough blow to the foundation that tries to do good in the community by connecting philanthropic donors with local causes in the area that could benefit.
“It was just devastating and really rocked our sense of security and safety. We’re always trying to make sure that our nonprofit partners and our donors and our community is cared for. So it was really hard to come into that situation," Wright said.
The burglars riffled through literally everything and what they couldn't steal, they vandalized, Wright said. They took computers, computer monitors, tools, food, and personal items, along with financial documents and blank checks. They even cut phone and internet lines and stole the stone tops off of newly-installed cabinetry, Wright said.
Staff are working with the foundation's cyber security service to make sure its donor's financial information hasn't been compromised, Wright said.
A small silver lining is that Billings Police officers might have caught a man involved with the crime, Wright said. A First Interstate Bank teller confiscated a man's ID who was trying to cash a forged $5,000 check about an hour and a half after the burglary was discovered. Police later tracked him down the same day, Wright said.
“It’s my understanding that the gentleman isn’t cooperating and hasn’t obviously admitted to the burglary, but we know that the Billings PD is doing the most that they can," Wright said.
The foundation bought the building at 404 N 30th St. W about a year ago. Its two primary staff members moved in in March. Contractors are still working to renovate the space.
The day the burglary was discovered, a modest security system was installed that detects door openings and has a few motion detectors. But the building didn't have a security system at the time of the burglary, Wright said.
Now, the top fundraising priority is for a more robust system, with cameras, security lights and better exterior doors, which will cost about $25,000, Wright said.
“We’re going to be really focusing on getting the financing and fundraising in place to make those safety and security upgrades for the building so we don’t have this happen again," Wright said.
On a brighter note, the foundation is about halfway to its fundraising goal of $1.6 million to purchase the building and renovate it to act as a hub for Billings philanthropy, Wright said. New additions include an elevator to the two-story building and ramps to make the space accessible to people in wheelchairs.
“We just can’t wait for this to be the home of philanthropy and the hub that it ought to be.”
The goal is to have construction wrapped up in six to eight months, Wright said. Last year, Billings Community Foundation dolled out $650,000 to different local organizations and their projects, Wright said.
To learn more about the foundation and find links to make a donation, visit its website by clicking here.