Wanda Parent shows the broken door frame of a storage room at the Eastside Acres Community Center in Sanford, where her Right Brain Club had stored a guitar and other items for youths seeking to use their creativity. Police say the club was robbed by thieves. Credit: Shawn P. Sullivan | York County Coast Star

SANFORD, Maine — Ricky Dunton showed up at the Eastside Acres Community Center at 127A Emery St. on Monday afternoon with a brand-new acoustic guitar. He had purchased the instrument at Tune Town in Wells as a gift to the Right Brain Club, which meets regularly at the center and provides its young members with opportunities to be creative and to develop their minds.

Wanda Parent, who founded the club and leads it, accepted Dunton’s donation with gratitude. The gift did much to mend her broken heart. The club had had a guitar, you see, but it got stolen during a burglary at the center last week. The thief or thieves also made off with a microscope too, and who knows what else — Parent has gone through the club’s collection of games, books, instruments, supplies and toys with a fine-tooth comb but is still bracing for that moment when she discovers that something else has been stolen too.

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“I was so beside myself,” Parent said when she discovered the burglary had taken place. “They went through every drawer, every box — my filing cabinet, everything.”

Dunton went out and bought the guitar when he read Parent’s post about the crime on a Sanford site on Facebook.

“It’s pretty much everything you need to get started: extra strings, a strap, a case — everything to rock right out of the box,” Dunton said.

Dunton is a drummer. He said he bought and donated the guitar to the Right Brain Club because he could imagine how he would have felt as a young person if someone had stolen his drums.

“I’d be devastated,” he said.

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The Sanford Police Department is investigating the incident. According to Deputy Chief Timothy Strout, little is known: suspects have not been identified, and the burglary is believed to have taken place anytime between Monday, Nov. 19, and Friday, Nov. 23. The center had been used for a birthday party on Sunday, Nov. 18, and Parent was the next person with permission to enter the building when she went there on Saturday, Nov. 24, and found that all doors to the three storage rooms had been forcibly pried open.

Parent believes the burglary might have taken place on Monday, Nov. 19, as she said that two individuals had told her that they saw a man and a woman inside the center but had figured they had Parent’s permission to be there. The man and woman spent considerable time inside the center, according to what Parent said she was told, and they left the scene in a pickup truck.

The building, which is owned by the Sanford Housing Authority, had not been secured, so entering it had not been a problem for the burglar or burglars, according to Strout.

Investigators have visited local pawn shops to see if anything stolen from the center might have turned up there, but so far the answer is no, according to Strout. Anyone with information to help solve the case is urged to call Officer Marshal Davis at the Sanford Police Department at 324-9170.

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Parent started the Right Brain Club three years ago after catching a documentary on PBS that stated that education in the United States does not focus enough on developing the right side of the brain — the side responsible for creativity and cognitive and critical thinking. She wanted to provide opportunities to the children who live at Eastside Acres and its surrounding neighborhoods.

“I just wanted to be able to provide opportunities for kids here for arts enrichment, literacy support, and creativity,” she said.

Parent raised $10,000 to purchase supplies for the club. The United Way awarded her a grant and Parent’s workplace, Jagger Brothers, contributed matching funds.

The club convenes during the warmer-weather months, often meeting as many as three times a week, according to Parent. She has pulled back a bit on the number of meetings per week ever since she started using the center as storage space for the local Stuff the Bus program, which Parent also coordinates. That program provides school supplies to low-income families and teachers.

Membership in the Right Brain Club is organized into three age groups, with each group meeting once a week. Teenagers have their own meeting but can develop mentoring skills by helping kids in the younger groups. During its first two years, the club had as many as 100 members, Parent said.

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At the start of each meeting, children take 15 minutes to enjoy a healthy snack — cheese sticks, yogurt, fruits, or vegetables. One time, Parent brought in a honeydew melon, and the children regarded it curiously, as they had never seen one before.

After snacks, the children can choose from a number of stations at which to play. One station has Legos, for example; others have Playdoh, books and board games, and so on.

“They can choose what they want to do,” Parent said.

A child receives a coupon for every book they read. For every five coupons, they can select a prize.

The club also features a Wall of Fame. If something a child creates catches Parent’s eye, it is showcased on the wall and the child has a shot at winning $100 in a raffle.

Parent said she hopes to expand the program so that it takes place year-round. It’s difficult to hold winter meetings due to the snow and limited parking options, she said.

The small community center had not been used much before the Right Brain Club started meeting there, according to Parent. Strategies for a Stronger Sanford’s board of directors would meet there once a month, but that was pretty much it, Parent said. Now a Girl Scout troop meets regularly at the center, and a local church holds Sunday School there too. Tenants also can use the space for birthday parties, bridal and baby showers, and other celebrations.

Anyone who wishes to donate to the Right Brain Club or to become involved in it in any way is encouraged to contact Parent via e-mail at wmparent@hotmail.com.

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