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Just days following a theft that left a Habitat for Humanity housing site without critical tools to continue, donors and supporters have contributed nearly $70,000 worth of replacement equipment and funds.

The contributions are more than double the estimated $32,000 worth of tools that were stolen from two trailers overnight Jan. 29-30 at the Domenica Park development on the site of the former Aeroshade factory in the Broadway Heights neighborhood in east central Waukesha.

Brett Peloquin, Habitat of Humanity of Waukesha County's director of development and marketing, said in an updated news release Tuesday that the "unprecedented outpouring of support" will allow the organization to continue its affordable housing program, despite the initial setback.

"The funds will be solely dedicated to purchasing replacement tools, enhancing security measures, and funding future tools and equipment as the organization progresses toward its long-term goal of constructing 20 units of affordable housing and completing 30 critical home repairs annually," Peloquin said.

Public response was immediate and timely

News of the theft quickly spread, both through social media channels and Milwaukee-area news organizations, shortly after the theft. The response was almost immediate, Habitat Waukesha officials said.

Peloquin said roughly 125 community members, plus numerous businesses and organizations contributed. They included Milwaukee Tool, Eaton Corp., Generac, Johnson Financial Group, Riverglen Christian Church, Bank FiveNine, Metropolitan Builders Association, First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, Tim O’Brien, MSI General, Porter Pipe & Supply, Peter Schwabe Inc., Wallboard, Machine Automation Services, A-1 Creative Packaging, L.H. Krueger & Sons, Patriot Fence & Construction, Best Version Media, GRAEF, West Bend Mutual, La Grange United Methodist Church, Crossway Church, Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and County Supervisor Larry Nelson.

One immediate beneficiary of the donations will be the Domenica Park development itself, an 18-home plan on 3.77 acres bounded by Oakland Avenue, Ellis Street and Greenfield Avenue north of East Broadway. Habitat Waukesha, and future homeowners who aid in the construction of the homes, were busy with Domenica Park's first-phase of construction for two duplexes and two single-family homes. The development is a first for Habitat Waukesha, which owns the land and is serving as the developer, an atypical arrangement. The land was purchased in 2022, marking the beginning of the organization's largest Waukesha County effort to date at one site, officials noted.

Police investigation continues in major theft case

Peloquin said the organization is still working with Waukesha police, who continue to investigate the theft. Police said the theft, given its large scale, remains a priority among current investigations, though no arrests have been made as of Tuesday afternoon.

"Our investigators have been working tirelessly on this case," Waukesha Police Capt. Dan Baumann said in an email. "We have partnered with other agencies and are coming up with good leads to hold the person(s) responsible for this crime accountable. As with many investigations we want to get it right and (use) patience to ensure our case is thorough." 

As seen on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel