Burglary and a Happy Ending

By Stephanie Bestelmeyer


If you’ve ever been burglarized, you know the sense of shock, sadness, and anger that come in waves as you deal with the aftermath. Unfortunately, the Asombro Institute for Science Education staff and Board felt all of these emotions in late May when our office was burglarized. But our story ultimately has a happy ending. Just keep reading!


I received a call early Sunday morning from Justin Van Zee, soil scientist and President of Asombro’s Board of Directors, who was heading out to do field work when he discovered the break-in. The thieves gained entry by breaking a window and climbing into the building. Then they went methodically to each staff members’ cubicle, making off with four computers, including three that we had saved for all year and finally purchased at the end of 2016.


Sunday became a busy day of making police reports, cleaning up broken glass, and notifying each staff member and Board member. Everyone was shocked, which quickly turned to sadness and anger as we started to think about the effort we put into raising money for those computers.


Who would steal from a nonprofit? Didn’t they see the children’s books, masks, and other trappings that make it obvious we work with kids? We tried making sense out of the nonsensical.


Yet very quickly, something amazing started to happen. It began when an Asombro friend (who wants to remain anonymous) called to ask me if she could come help sweep up the glass. It continued when our GoFundMe campaign was met immediately with donations and notes of support. As news of the burglary spread, people dropped by the office with checks and well wishes.


When I returned to the office one morning, I found a large donation check and note from a donor saying, “A few bad guys can’t stop all the good that Asombro does.” The shock, sadness, and anger that our staff and Board felt started to melt under the warmth of donors’ generosity.


These donors, including several who had never given to Asombro before, contributed $9,023. These funds will allow us to replace all the hardware and software that was stolen.


The Asombro staff was also amazing through this ordeal. Staff members brought in their personal computers so they would be able to continue their science education work while we raised funds for new computers. Their diligent computer backups onto an external hard drive and cloud storage meant we lost very little data in the burglary. By Monday afternoon, less than a full workday after the burglary, everyone was busy with the real work of Asombro once again.


In addition to our gratitude toward donors, we also feel extremely grateful to the USDA/ARS Jornada Experimental Range. They give Asombro free office space, and they have already taken several measures to increase the security of our building.


I wish I could tell you that the thieves were caught and our computers were replaced. Unfortunately, that’s not our happy ending to this story.


Instead, our happy ending came from the small and large contributions of time, kindness, and funds from people who care. These generous people remind us that there is much more good in the world than bad. They remind us of the importance of our work. And they helped us get over the shock, sadness, and anger very quickly.


Now we turn the next page and keep fighting for quality science education and an understanding of the desert for thousands of children each year. Thank you for contributing to this happy ending.