Bessie Smith Cultural Center director addresses stolen Strut mon - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Bessie Smith Cultural Center director addresses stolen Strut money

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - This year's Bessie Smith Strut is being overshadowed. Chattanooga Police confirm someone broke in and stole a large amount of cash from the Bessie Smith Cultural Center Tuesday morning. Now police are zeroing in on the thief.

Two years ago the Bessie Smith Cultural Center took on the responsibility of hosting The Strut. Along with that came changes like increased security and this year, even with a Riverbend wristband, there was an admission fee. The cultural center's director, Rose Martin, says the money is crucial for supporting the center and future Strut events.

Despite even more changes surrounding The Strut this year, crowds lined up Monday and paid the higher admission fee to get in of seven bucks with a Riverbend wristband, $10 at the gate without.

Not even 12 hours after the event was over, someone managed to break into the Bessie Smith Cultural Center and steal the safe containing all the money collected from The Strut.

"When they broke in, they got into a room and took an amount of cash out of there," said Sgt. Daniel Jones with the Chattanooga Police Department.

Rose Martin, Executive Director of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, says she is devastated.

"I'm disappointed and extremely tired too because lots of volunteers and staff and the quarter as a whole worked very hard to put the event together. And it was a successful event."

Martin would not comment on the amount of cash that was stolen.

"But I will say, you know, for a non-profit organization every dollar matters," said Martin.

She also will no elaborate on theories of who may have committed the act.

Channel 3 asked if she thought it was an inside job and Martin responded, "Well, we don't know that. And I really can't comment on that further because that's something that's being looked at."

She says overall, around 150 staff members and volunteers help make The Strut a success and she is not going to let the theft slow down the center's operations.

"It's a difficult thing, something I've never experienced in my lifetime. But, of course, things happen and you have to address it head-on and just do all that you can do to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Martin.

Martin says the center is continuing to work with investigators to make sure the cash is found. She says she is confident police will find the thief or thieves.

If you have any information that can help in the case, call the Chattanooga Police Department.
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