Staff at a popular Worthing beauty spot have issued an emotional plea after a ‘kick in the teeth’ break in last night.
Vital donations for the taxpayer-funded Highdown Gardens were stolen when a thief cut padlocks on a pillar box, according to staff.
Gary Prescod, interim head gardener at the gardens, said: “Someone climbed the fence and cut the industrial padlocks off the donations pillar box to steal the donations.
“A lot of work for just a few quid.”
There is no charge to enter the gardens, which rely on council funding and public donations to survive.
Mr Prescod added: “I’m grateful to anyone who donates a small amount to allow us to continue the good work.
“Having the donations stolen is a kick in the teeth, but I empty the pillar box regularly so the impact is limited.”
Tougher economic times have seen a fall in donations to the gardens, according to Mr Prescod.
He added: “People are counting the pennies harder these days.
“Given we have increasing visitor numbers, particularly at this time of year during the school holidays, it’s evident that cash is increasingly being kept in purses and pockets.
“But a little plea from me: if you enjoy visiting Highdown and want to help us keep it looking good, do consider putting in a few coins as a donation when you visit.
“And for my part, I promise to empty the pillar box daily so you know your money is going to fund the gardens rather than something more dubious.”
Sussex Police have been approached for a comment.