Thieves steal catalytic converters from buses used for disabled clients

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ST. LOUIS – The operators of the Southside Wellness Center on Park Avenue take steps protect their vans because thieves have stolen catalytic converters there before. When workers arrived at the center on Monday, they were heartbroken to discover they’d been targeted yet again.

“It just hurts,” said the center’s operator Mary Parram.

She said three vans had damage from the theft. The vans were inside a padlocked fence, yet someone sawed through a metal pole and then stole the catalytic converters.

There are surveillance cameras and lights around the center. Parram is working with her security company to see if any images could help police find those responsible.

“Tears came to my eyes this morning,” she said.

Parram’s 86-year-old mother founded the center more than 40 years ago. Ollie Mae Stewart remains an active part of providing services for her community. She helped give away thanksgiving meals Wednesday, the very day the thefts were discovered.

“She cooked from scratch and we gave out 200 plates today,” Parram said.

St. Louis police have reported similar crimes in parts of south city in recent days.

Parram and Stewart say their clients rely on the vans for transportation. They fear submitting a claim to their insurance because the worry how much their rates will increase but say paying out of pocket for the repairs will cost thousands of dollars.

Anyone wishing to help the center can call 314-664-5024.

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