Thieves hit Habitat work site

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 15, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Fran Alwood was disgusted as she walked around the Habitat for Humanity construction project on Smith Street Wednesday morning taking inventory.

&uot;At least they didn’t take the ladders,&uot; the co-project chairman said, relieved to find at least one bright spot.


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Overnight, someone had broken into a storage shed on the property, emptying it of much-needed tools that volunteers use in constructing the house.

Among the major items missing were a large level and a Skil saw.

But what really got Alwood’s blood boiling was that the culprit had snatched Norman Senechal’s tool bucket.

After a lifetime of working as a carpenter in his native Massachusetts, Senechal, 74, had acquired many tools by the time he retired eight years ago and moved to Suffolk.

&uot;Some of the tools I’ve had over 50 years,&uot; he said. &uot;I gave most of them away after I retired, but I did keep some that meant something to me.&uot;

He referred to the stolen bucket as &uot;a community tool bucket,&uot; noting that he always let young people from out of the area who were helping out on Habitat projects have free access to it.

&uot;They took what they wanted and always put it back,&uot; he said.

Since moving to Suffolk – he wanted to be near his son who lived in Virginia Beach and brought his mother with him because &uot;she couldn’t stand the cold anymore – Senechal has been a habitat volunteer. The current house being constructed at 219 Smith Street is the eighth Suffolk Habitat project to which he has lent his talents.

Wednesday was the second time in his life that Senechal has been a victim of theft, he said. The first was when he was discharged from the Army in 1953. His duffel bag with all his records and paperwork was swiped as he was waiting to head home.

As a result, he has been unable to qualify for any veterans’ benefits since.

&uot;I’ve talked to everybody – senators, congressmen, nobody has been able to help,&uot; he said. &uot;I spent a year in Korea. I was wounded and suffered frostbite. Today I have a hard time walking on them,&uot; he said, staring at his feet.

&uot;But if I could prevent this from happening to one other veteran…&uot;

Alwood spent the morning visiting local pawnshops trying to turn up information on the tools.

&uot;Norm donates his time to do Habitat and when he’s not doing that he’s building wheelchair ramps – and they steel his tools. I went by pawn shops this morning checking and one of them told me ‘a crack head doesn’t care.’&uot;

Habitat for Humanity is appealing to the community for assistance in replacing tools stolen Tuesday from the site of a house it is building on Smith Street.

Habitat needs basic carpenter tools, small hand tools, a new Skil saw, nail punches, drill bits, chisels, etc. according to co-project chairman Fran Alwood.

Anyone wishing to help out can contact Alwood at 539-5780, or co-project chairman Angela Koonz at 923-3210.

Also, anyone with information about the theft of tools overnight Tuesday from the Habitat house being built at 219 Smith St., is urged to call the Suffolk Crime Line at 1-800-LOCK-U-UP.