Cadets without AC after materials stolen from Civil Air Patrol’s Composite Squadron in St. Augustine

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — Young cadets in St. Augustine are without air conditioning after the Civil Air Patrol’s Composite Squadron says copper wire and coolant was stolen from the building two weeks ago.

“I’m a volunteer; I don’t get paid to be here, and I put in like 40 hours a week toward the cadet program, plus I have a full-time job, as well as our other senior members, we put in a lot of time and effort, and when you have children involved and it’s so hot because it’s Florida,” First Lt. Nicole Graves, Squadron Commander, said.

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Now, she is running the cadet program with no air conditioning.

Forty cadets and 20 senior members volunteer for the Air Force’s auxiliary program. Community service is a big part of what they do.

“It isn’t anything we ever expected. We’ve been here for years serving our community. It kind of really felt like a stab in our gut,” she said.

Graves says it will cost close to $4,000 dollars to get a new AC system -- something for which the squadron will have to fundraise.

Max Vernimo, a manager at Jax Scrap Metal Recycling says demand for copper is high, and it is typically expensive because it is vital for the everyday things we use.

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“It goes in the cell towers, our signs, it runs through our cars, pretty much in general everything,” Vernimo explained.

In the meantime, “we teach the cadets that you roll with the punches and make do,” Graves said.

Action News Jax has asked St. Augustine Police about any other copper wire thefts recently. We are waiting on a response.

If you’d like to help the squadron, you can send checks to St. Augustine Composite Squadron headquarters at 4040 Crossfield Way, Ste. 6, Lakeland, FL 33811.