COLUMBIA – Services for Independent Living in Columbia is asking for community donations after the organization said a theft occurred sometime over the weekend of Jan. 16. 

The non-profit organization posted on their Facebook page Friday morning stating that the catalytic converters were stolen off of two of their larger transportation vehicles overnight the previous weekend, and that they are looking for donations from the community to help cover replacement fees. The vehicles were parked in an open parking lot outside of their center when the theft occurred. 

The organization said of the six vehicles the organization has, the converters were taken off of two mini buses in their fleet, which also includes standard passenger vehicles and minivans. On average, the organization transports 240 people per week between seven drivers. 

Kathleen McKinney is the Outreach Coordinator for SIL, and is handling the fundraising for the incident. “The vehicles are clearly labeled in what we do here.” Says McKinney, “It’s not like we were expecting this kind of thing to happen.”

The mission of SIL is to empower people with disabilities, veterans, and seniors to maximize their independence in the community. One of the main services that the organization offers is affordable and accommodating transportation for those who need to buy groceries or go to doctor’s appointments.

A vehicle’s catalytic converter cost can range from $400 to $3000 depending on the quality and the labor cost (source info here). The transportation program is primarily funded by donors and grant money to optimize lower service costs for their customers, and provide free transport for veterans and their spouses. 

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Following the theft, SIL filed a report with the Columbia Police Department, although the organization did not have an update on the report. 

The catalytic converters in the vehicles have already been replaced and their transportation services are now fully functioning again. SIL is looking for donations to help cover the insurance deductible for the cost of replacing the converters, as well as the cost of covering extra staff time and lost revenue during the incident. Community donations will also be used to fund preventative care for the vehicles, which could include paying for a gated parking area for SIL to store their vehicles to avoid future theft.

So far, SIL has received $3,860 in donations for repairs. 

This is the first time SIL has ever done a Facebook fundraiser before, and one of the few times that they have really reached out to the community for help.

McKinney said the organization is overwhelmed with the generosity of the community. “I wasn’t sure if we would get a couple hundred dollars… We’re certainly very grateful.” 

Community members can donate directly via Facebook by clicking this link. SIL also accepts donations of both money and medical equipment on their donation page. To learn more about Services for Independent Living and other ways to help, visit their website

SIL transportation operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eligible riders must have a disability, and/or be 55 years of age or older, and/or be a veteran. Rides to SIL sponsored events and activities are free, but based on availability.

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