A CHARITY which works to help vulnerable people and offenders released from prison has had its safe stolen.

Fred Milligan, who runs Blackburn with Darwen Churches Furniture Stores in Chapel Street, Blackburn, arrived at work on Wednesday morning to discover the break-in.

He said the burglary of the locked safe - which contained £800 and vital legal documents - could be the ‘last straw’ for the struggling charity, which has stores in Blackburn and Darwen run by 30 volunteers.

Mr Milligan has been with the charity for 14 years since his retirement and puts in 30 hours a week.

He said he was ‘devastated’ at the burglary overnight and pleaded for the return of the charities legal papers.

Mr Milligan said: “The money is vital, but even more so are the accounts, documents and our article of association which we need to continue to apply for funding.

“Without them we, like other charities in this climate, will be struggling to keep going.

“It’s really desperate times. We have a budget of £240,000 and our annual £50,000 provision from the council has been cut to nothing. We are in danger of closing and this could be the last straw.

“What annoys me is that we are set up to provide free furniture and appliances to people in need, often to lads just out of prison. We also given them opportunities in our joiners shop and electrical repair workshops, but it’s someone who we are trying to help who has probably done this.

“I’m weary of it. It’s times like this I wonder why on earth I’m bothering. I feel absolutely gutted.”

The thieves smashed in the rear wooden doors and managed to cut through steel bolts securing the solid iron two-foot square safe to the floor.

Town centre PC Scott Boast confirmed that thieves had broken into the charity overnight between 4pm on Tuesday and 8am on Wednesday.

He said: “We would appeal for the return of this safe, the money and the legal documents. This safe may well turn up as it’s difficult to get into. If anybody sees it they should contact police immediately.”

Call 0845 1 253545 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111