Thief steals donations for breast cancer victim

Jennifer Mann

Customers at Lindy’s General Store had been pitching in their spare change and dollar bills.

Laura Swanson, whose mother, Paula, was dying of breast cancer, collected the money every week and put it toward Paula’s People – her family’s team in a road race that raises money to fight breast cancer.

Police say a delivery man exploited the good will of the public when he stole the collection can from the counter of Lindy’s with about $200 inside.

The theft occurred 10 days before 46-year-old Paula Swanson died from her disease on Halloween.

Her funeral was Wednesday.

“It’s a disgusting act,” said Josh Worrall, whose family owns the store.

Paula Swanson lived only a few blocks from the store on Mattakeesett Street in Pembroke and Worrall said she was a familiar face at the store before she became sick. The store supported her struggle by allowing the collections can and by donating to Paula’s People, the family team that ran in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Four out of five of the Swanson sisters, including Paula, battled breast cancer – testing positive for the breast cancer gene – and all of their daughters will also have to be tested.

The Patriot Ledger featured the Swanson sisters’ story in October for breast cancer awareness month, sparking the family’s appearance on local news shows and ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Worrall said an employee noticed the collection can was missing, and the store’s security camera revealed the suspect: a delivery man who that day had been assisting the man who regularly brought supplies to their store.

Police are not releasing the man’s name while the investigation is ongoing. No arrests have been made.

“There’s been a lot of reaction around the store,” Worrall said. “You’d think someone who would do that would be so down and out – but this guy was working when he did it.”

The delivery man’s company has since donated to Paula’s Team, as did a company that heard the man was wearing one of their T-shirts during the theft. Worrall said the two donations total $350.

Worrall said his family’s Hanover store had a similar experience in 2005, when a thief broke in at night and snatched a jug filled with $800 in donations for Hurricane Katrina victims. The store now only allows smaller collection cans to minimize the loss if there is a theft.

To donate to the “Paula’s People” team for the 2009 Boston Breast Cancer 3-Day walk, click here.

Jennifer Mann may be reached