In 2014, Banners Gate Community Association in Sutton Coldfield achieved funding to purchase a minibus to serve the various organisations within our community. We have since loved and cherished our bus which, in the seven years since we achieved it, has provided vital local transport to three primary schools, two Scout groups, two Townswomen's Guilds, a teenage girls' self-esteem group, disadvantaged children, three religious orders, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and local events such as sports days, fetes, and quizzes. Our most recent driver training supported us to carry assistance dogs safely, so that children relying on their Therapy Dog can use the bus to travel with her so that they are not prevented from accessing enriching opportunities.
With a sick irony, on the eve of Children in Need day, thieves brought angle-grinders to shear through two heavy metal gates and steal it from the premises of one of our subscribing schools in a targeted and organised attack. On Children in Need Day itself (Friday 19th November 2021), it was abandoned in West Bromwich having been completely mechanically cannibalised, stripped of its engine, gearbox, clutch, brakes, catalytic converter, prop shaft, manifold, exhaust, wheels, tyres, wheel arches, mirrors, windscreen wipers, and its Community Association livery. Six hundred children as well as numerous adult users are now deprived of this cherished community facility.
The fantastic and responsive support of the local community ensured the recovery of our beloved bus, and it is now with the forensic science investigators of the police. Due to the extent of the modifications that we were funded to make in order to fit wheelchair equipment and adapt it to the needs of our user groups, we wish to restore this vehicle to the roads as, until its theft, it had been in immaculate condition and had covered less than twenty thousand miles. Our insurance will only partially meet the anticipated cost of these repairs, and the funds from which we meet our on-the-road costs such as MoT, servicing, tax and fuel will be consumed by the challenge of making good the damage. Please will you help us to return our minibus to community service once more? We think this will be the very best way to show those who choose to break into schools and strip wheelchair-adapted vehicles for parts that the goodwill of our communities is far, far more powerful than their evil intentions and the misery they cause. For anything you can give us, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.