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$4,000 worth of fireworks stolen from SONdance

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POSTED June 30, 2012 1:43 a.m.

SONdance was expecting its first day of fireworks sales to be a blast.

It turned out to be a dud. Thanks to the thief, or thieves, who spirited away under cover of darkness nearly half of the non-profit organization’s locked container full of Safe & Sane Fourth of July fireworks that volunteers are selling to raise money for their community programs.

The initial guesstimate on the quantity of fireworks stolen was 75 to 80 percent of all that was in the padlocked container placed next to the booth in the Food-4-Less parking lot. However, later in the day on Friday, a more exact figure was determined after a thorough inventory of the contents. The total of the items stolen came down to 30 percent, reported Steve Lyons who is co-director of SONdance with wife Jolynda.

While the total loss was downsized, the stolen items were among the best and most expensive of the lot, and was valued at about $4,000, Steve Lyons said later in the evening.

“They took a lot of family packs, a lot of different types of the larger packages, and a lot of miscellaneous things that they may be able to use with the other products to make them louder,” he said.

“I’m happy that they didn’t take more, but sad that they broke in on a non-profit organization and steal stuff. That’s pretty said,” he commented.

Undaunted by the criminal act, the SONdance fireworks booth opened for business as usual Friday at noon. This time, though, there will be people who will be guarding the container which has been re-equipped with new locks.

The exact time when the theft happened between Thursday night and Friday morning is anybody’s guess, Lyons said.

“I don’t have any idea – 2 o’clock, 4 o’clock. We were there until after 10:30 last night, cleaning up everything at the booth, putting everything away and locking up. According to the police report, it happened between the time we left and when the city waste truck came by at about 5:30 a.m.,” said Lyons who was back selling at the booth on Friday.

But what makes the incident hard for him to fathom is the fact their booth is right in the middle of the parking lot that is surrounded by three 24-hour business establishments – the Food-4-Less grocery store, IHOP (International House of Pancakes) restaurant, and Del Taco.

The theft was reportedly discovered by Manteca Police around 7 o’clock in the morning on Friday while they were patrolling the area around the Food-4-Less shopping center on East Yosemite Avenue and Spreckels Avenue.

“They saw that (the container) was open, so they called (SONdance directors) Jolynda Lyon and her husband Steve,” volunteer Thomas James said.

“They got called by the police at 7:15 Friday morning,” he said.

This the second year SONdance was lucky to be picked in the lottery process used to select those who can fund-raise by selling the Safe & Sane fireworks during the Fourth of July celebration. Last year, their booth was located at the Big League Dreams across the street from Costco in west Manteca. While the location allowed them to have a trailer at the site where someone stayed during the night to guard the merchandise, it was nevertheless challenging, Lyons said.

First, there was “a rumble of gangs and there was a big fight there last year” which scared people away, Lyons said. That was on July 3.

“We stayed open but no one bought anything,” he recalled.

The next day, July 4, Costco was closed which affected their customer traffic. On top of that, someone stole the frame sign on the corner of Airport Way and Daniels Street “so people didn’t know we were there. We had little sale on the Fourth last year,” Lyons said.

The non-profit organizations do not have a say on the location of their fireworks booths. They are assigned their respective spots.

Since it’s their second time to be picked in the fireworks fund-raising lottery, SONdance won’t be eligible again until after two years to give other non-profits a chance to earn money for their own community projects.

Despite the break-in and the loss from their proceeds, SONdance crew of volunteers and staff remain hopeful about the success of their fund-raising efforts this year.

Lyons said they are hoping they will have a successful sale even after the theft. They remain hopeful “with God’s help. He’s able to turn bad things to good, so we’re trusting in him to do that. I’m just going to press through and do the best we can to run our school.”

SONdance, a Christian dance school, has been a fixture in the community for the last 22 years. They rent a studio space in the commercial area behind Home Depot on Spreckels Avenue. They teach ballet, jazz, modern dance, worship dance, and hip hop.

“We’re not connected with any church, but we have students from quite a few churches throughout the city,” Lyons said.

SONdance students give public performances every year at Christmas and in late spring or early summer.

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