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Cash pours in for Portrush-based charity after theft of collection box for orphans

The head of a Portrush-based charity that helps orphaned children in Thailand has said his faith in human nature has been restored after generous Northern Irish people rallied round following the theft of one of his collection boxes from a chip shop.

I’m gobsmacked by all the kindness that’s in sharp contrast to the callousness of the thieves,” said Willie Gregg after hearing about new donations to his Willie’s Orphan Fund in the wake of the posting of a video showing a woman stealing the collection box from The Chippy in Antrim.

Thousands of people have seen the video on after it was shared on the Belfast Telegraph website and on the chip shop’s own Facebook page and hundreds of people have taken to social media to condemn the thieves.

In the video a woman is seen calmly lifting the collection box from the counter of the Railway Street premises and the owners appealed for information in identifying her and a male companion.

“The response has been astonishing,” said The Chippy’s manager Joanne Graham. “But people haven’t just been expressing their anger that anyone would do such a thing, they have also been coming in with donations.

“One young lad gave us £10 for the charity and older people who maybe don’t have a lot of money have also been leaving donations. The bottom line is that we will probably end up with more than what was in the box in the first place.

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“And the fact that the thieves actually paid for a food order meant that they may have spent more than they got in the box.

“As yet however we have had no positive identifications and one school of thought is that the couple may have been from out of town and were possibly on a thieving mission in Antrim.”

Willie Gregg who has raised over £345,000 for children after the 2004 tsunami in Thailand said that the contributions had lifted his spirits.

“I was down in the dumps after seeing the collection box disappearing, “he added. “I know there may not have been a fortune in it but every single penny counts for charities at the moment.

“The past 15 or 16 months of the pandemic lockdown have been extremely difficult for all of us. It has been tough getting enough money gathered together to support the orphanage we help in Phuket and to aid children living in the slums of Bangkok.

“But even when things are bad it’s so wonderful to hear that people in Northern Ireland are thinking of others who are less fortunate than them.”

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