Van and donations stolen from non-profit

A local non-profit took a hit early Tuesday morning when its van was stolen. However, it was more than a van. The van was filled with purses for underprivileged women. 

Nancy Banks with Fresh Start Learning Inc. had her 1999 white Dodge caravan parked behind her home Monday night and when she went to check on it, it was gone.

"I stood there for a moment looking," Banks said. "Are you serious? Is the van really gone?"

Banks started a program called "The Purpose Filled Purse" three years ago. The purses were filled with hygiene and sanitary items and given to women across the city. Some are homeless, addicted to drugs or in sex trafficking. The purses are a way to help them out.

Banks said the van wasn't just stolen from her, but the hundreds of women she helps each month.

"You don't even know the sole purpose of what that van meant to this organization," Banks said. "Those ladies that are waiting for us out on the streets or those that we talk to on a weekly basis, it hurts."

Banks said they give purses to women on the streets every month and also deliver them to local organizations that help women. In total, she says she gives away about 100 purses a month. But the van serves a greater purpose than a purse delivery system.

"We transport from off the street to the hospital for doctors visits, support groups, a ride home, a ride to a job," Banks said. "That van was multipurpose."

Losing the van has slowed her down but it won't stop her. Banks says she was called to help others and this small road block isn't going to prevent her from doing what she needs to do. She piled three large bins into her personal car Tuesday to deliver 60 purses to a local women's addiction center.

"I don't forget that we started off in my personal vehicle," Banks said. "We got blessed with the van so it's just a minor setback. It won't stop us from doing work."

Banks' golden heart shines through in the terrible situation. Even though this person has wronged her, she has a growing concern for them too. The van was due to have its brakes fixed this week. So she's worried whoever stole the van may not realize the brakes could go any minute endangering themselves and others.

"Everyone has a story," Banks said. "Everybody has a challenge in their life. Everyone has to overcome something. If you're out in the middle of the night stealing vans, something has to drive you to do that. Apparently, you need assistance or guidance."

It's not the purses or its contents she's worried about losing. She even had her husband's tools stolen from the van as well but she's not concerned about them. She knows that's all replaceable. She says each purse has a handwritten note from a volunteer.

Each note is different and she feels each one is meant for the person who receives it. Which makes the one she read aloud on Tuesday even more special.

"Don't give up," Banks read. "Keep trying and things will come to you."


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