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Vandals target Huntly centre tackling coronavirus fallout

By Pat Scott

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Vandals have dealt a devastating blow to Huntly's advice and information service which is working at full throttle to help people whose livelihoods have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Two huge window panes at Bargain Box, the fundraising enterprise for Gordon Rural Action, GRA, were smashed during the early hours of Monday morning.

Police are checking CCTV footage from the area after receiving a call from a witness at around 4am on Monday morning.

A police spokesman said: "Two males, possibly aged between 17 and 21 years of age, were walking along Gordon Street. Once they reached Bargain Box, they tried to smash the window with a hammer and throwing stones at it."

Interim chief officer at the cash strapped organisation, Diane Mathieson learned of the damage as she made her way to the locked down office on Monday morning to collect paperwork.

Insurance assessors were called and they have confirmed that the damage to the reinforced glass could only have been caused by a hammer head.

Four or five hammer blows were inflicted and the damage has now been covered with cellophane to make the windows safe until new glass can be fitted.

Ms Mathieson said: "Pieces of glass had been sent flying well across the floor of the shop and onto furniture. It is just totally pointless.

"Our team are all working from home because of the lockdown and we are really upset about this. We are a charity, working to help some of the most vulnerable in our community.

"We are struggling to survive as we receive no core funding. We have had a successful funding application but because or coronavirus that project has been put on hold. We are doing all that we can to keep the service going and it feels such a blow to have been repaid like this.

"We do not think that GRA as an organisation was targeted it was a random attack.

"Three people have messaged to say they heard very loud bangs which woke them from their sleep. Why was anyone going about with a hammer at 4am when everyone is supposed to be staying safe and at home?

"We already have an excess of £200 when we make an insurance claim on the windows. There have been three claims since 2017. That excess is money that we could be spending on providing services to people.

"With the shop shut we have no way to generate income, there is a massive knock on effect."

GRA has seen a spike in enquiries about Universal Credits since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ms Mathieson added: "I think we are going to find self employed people will soon be turning to us for help as they have no previous experience of the benefits systems. People could find themselves in real dire straits in less than a month with no support."

Anyone with any information should call police on 101.

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