UPDATE: Suspect charged in Teen Challenge theft speaks out - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Suspect charged in Teen Challenge theft speaks out

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

UPDATE: The post of Facebook spread like wildfire Sunday with pictures showing Lisa Givens, 47, and her friend Tammy Lovett, 43, helping themselves to a large dresser and mirror and bags of clothing from donation bins. 

"I don't want to steal from someone that needs it. I don't need it that bad," Givens said. 

Givens contacted Channel 3 wanting to tell her side of the story. 

"I saw the lady in front of me getting stuff and I thought 'Well, okay, if they're doing it, I guess everyone does it,'" she said, "I read the box, I didn't see any signs that said but I probably should have known anyway and someone else had told me if it's outside the box, it's okay. It's considered free junk." 

But Teen Challenge Executive Director Roger Helle wants Givens and others to know anything in or around these bins are considered donations not junk. 

Police cited Givens and Lovett Tuesday for misdemeanor theft. 

"You're not entitled to it because it's there. It's somebody's property," Helle added. 

Givens says she returned the dresser and a bag of shoes after learning about the post making rounds on social media and says she's tried contacting Teen Challenge several times. 

"We are sorry. We are not thieves that we would go and steal something like that. I got bad information and made a bad choice. I made a bad mistake," Givens said. 

Helle tells Channel 3 his office has not gotten any calls or voice mail messages from Givens.


PREVIOUS STORY: The director of a local non-profit says he is willing to forgive two women caught red-handed stealing from donation bins. Several pictures have made the rounds on Facebook of the two women taking items intended for the mid-south chapter of Teen Challenge.

"The last seven years in this economy, it's been worse," says Executive Director Roger Helle.

Helle says he was not too surprised when he saw a Facebook post spreading like wildfire Sunday.
 
"This is the first time that this one was reported so quickly," he says.

The sequence of pictures show two women at Northgate Mall helping themselves to a large dresser and mirror, and bags of clothes, donations intended for Teen Challenge.
 
"You're not entitled to it because it's there. It's somebody's property," says Helle.

The poster of the photos tells Channel 3 he did not confront the two women out of concern for his own safety. The women could potentially face theft charges.
 
"Everything in the box and outside of the box, by legislation, is the property of Teen Challenge."

Helle knows tough times.
 
"If it wasn't by the Grace of God I would have been one of those guys on the side of the interstate with a little sign that said: 'Vietnam vet. Will work for food.'"
    
The mission of Teen Challenge is so close to his heart. The items collected are given to a local company, which sells the items and gives part of the funds back to Teen Challenge.
 
"What they don't realize is, is that we have a residential program with about 45 men and women who are coming out of addiction issues and that's one of the ways that we support our program," says Helle.

"I'm very grateful to all the people that responded to those people's stealing and letting them know, 'Hey. People do see you.'"

"If I were to get mad about every time somebody steals from the boxes, I'd be mad a lot of the time. We just pray that some day they'll wake up and realize that, 'Hey. When I'm taking something without asking for it. I'm stealing,'" says Helle.

Helle has a very forgiving heart. He still wants to give the two women in the pictures the chance to come forward and do the right thing before he gets law enforcement involved. 

For more information on Teen Challenge and its mission, click here.
 

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