A "heartwarming" community library has had to buy a lockable donation tin that can be screwed down to a table, after a thief helped themself to money meant for local food banks.

Former Royal Mail manager Julie Askem, 59, is located centrally in Claydon and offered to help set up a small table for books on Bacon Road during the first lockdown in 2020.

"I made sure every book was sanitised before going on display," said Ms Askem.

"The response was amazing so we gradually added more tables for children's books, jigsaw puzzles and dvds."

Ipswich Star: Julie Askem in the Claydon community library on Bacon Road.Julie Askem in the Claydon community library on Bacon Road. (Image: Julie Askem)

Even though it was set up as a free service to help the community feel more connected, Claydon residents started putting money through Ms Askem's postbox, so she decided to put out a jar for donations.

"This went to the Barham church bell fund which went a little way to get the bells repaired and ringing again," she added.

In the three years it has been running, the community library has gone from strength to strength, seeing people travel from as far as Felixstowe to use it.

"During all this time, there has never been any issues at all of money going missing," Ms Askem said.

"Only extreme kindness and generosity."

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With £300 raised for local food banks so far this year, Ms Askem noticed recently that money had been stolen from the donation box.

Ipswich Star: The donation tin was forced open and money was stolen.The donation tin was forced open and money was stolen. (Image: Julie Askem)

"When I went to empty the jar one day, the lid was loose," she said.

"I sealed it, but the next day I noticed it had been forced open and the money was gone."

She has now bought a lockable tin that can be screwed to the table to prevent any further thefts.

Ms Askem said, however, that the pleasure the library gives "far outweighs" any negative activity, adding: "It's heartwarming to see the little children get excited while picking out their books.

"It all makes it worthwhile."