RICHMOND — Donna McCluskey had no idea on a bitterly cold and windy January morning that her good deed would be both punished and rewarded.

The Isaac F. Umberhine Public Library’s head librarian saw two men, neither of them older than 25, huddled by the side door on Jan. 20. Figuring they were waiting for a ride, she invited them in out of the cold.

Ordinarily, that door would have been locked, but it’s the door the children use when they come to story hour, which had just ended.

The pair eventually came inside. One asked to use the bathroom and the other talked briefly with McCluskey, making fun of the library’s small size. He was from Connecticut, where, apparently, the libraries are larger.

They left a few minutes later, and then a few minutes after that, the one who used the bathroom returned, made a quick circuit around the library, took a drink of water from the fountain, grabbed the plastic water jug the library uses for a donation canister from the circulation desk and bolted.

“It happened so fast,” she said. “All I could say was ‘Hey! Hey!’ but he kept right on going. It was so quick — boom, boom, boom!”

McCluskey said she didn’t know until after she saw the security footage that one of them had helped himself to a can of soda.

Richmond’s library has not been a hotbed of crime. The last theft McCluskey can remember was of a couple of videos seven or eight years ago.

While she doesn’t know how much was in the donation canister, she said it could have been about $150.

“The kids throw their pennies in, and people will put in a $20 or a $5 or a $1,” she said.

The money is for the library’s wish list — buying a chair for the adult room, for instance, or re-covering old chairs so they can be used again.

“The library is fairly new,” she said. “When we were raising money for the library building, it would have been more.”

During fundraising, the biggest haul from the jug at one time was $560.

Richmond police Chief Scott MacMaster said there have been no solid investigative leads to date, although the car the pair got into is apparently a familiar one.

On Monday, Missy Dore created a GoFundMe.com page for the library, and within a little more than 24 hours, donations reached $800, surpassing the $500 target she had set. By Wednesday, the total reached $885.

“I mulled it for a couple of days, and my husband finally said, ‘Just do it,'” she said.

Dore, whom the library employees describe as an avid reader, volunteers for the Tuesday night and Wednesday morning story hours.

When she set the fundraising goal at $500, she thought that was pretty lofty, she said, and then word started to spread. Donations have come in from current town residents and former town residents who now live far from this small community overlooking the Kennebec River.

“This just shows you what a small town can overcome,” she said.

The GoFundMe account will be active probably for about a week more, Dore said. She hopes the donation jug will make its return.

McCluskey said patrons have been asking about it and hoping it comes back, and they have dropped off donations in person. In the meantime, it’s likely that the cash-handling procedures will undergo some scrutiny, as will the location of the jug.

“I felt like my sense of security was breached,” McCluskey said.

In stealing the money, however, the pair unwittingly did the library a favor.

The library now has money to buy a pair of matching easy chairs for the adult section.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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