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Frank Gray

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Courtesy of Jerry Vandeveer
Jerry Vandeveer is making and selling signs like this one to benefit the Women’s Bureau. Thieves who stole his previous signs gave him the idea.

Sign thefts to benefit Women’s Bureau

Hey, you two girls in the purple car.

And you, the man in the white car.

Yeah, you guys, the ones who keep stealing the signs out of Jerry Vandeveer’s front yard.

Vandeveer, believe it or not, wants to say thanks, sort of, because you’ve given him a great idea and brought more publicity to his signs than he could have ever figured out by himself.

Vandeveer, who runs the Wood Shack on Baker Street, gets involved in different causes. He helped create the Law Enforcement/Fire Fighters Memorial on Wells Street, and last year he took part in Walk a Mile In Her Shoes, in which men put on red high heels and walk a mile to raise awareness about sexual assault and domestic violence.

Not too long ago, he decided to create a sign to promote the cause, so he and his wife, Linda, put their heads together and out of his wife’s head came the idea. Create a sign that says, “Real Men Don’t Abuse, They Protect.”

Vandeveer went to a local sign company, which he won’t name, and they charged him $32 to produce an 18-by-24-inch sign, and he stuck it in the ground in front of his home.

“Domestic violence is one thing we have control over,” Vandeveer said. People who need counseling or education can get it. It can be prevented.

Then one night the sign disappeared. A security camera showed two young women in a purple car. One got out and stuck the sign in the trunk and the car took off.

Vandeveer lamented the theft on a Facebook page, which attracted the attention of Ramos Apparel, a home-based business in Fort Wayne. The owner offered to make him a new sign, and Vandeveer put the new one back in his front yard.

Within days that sign disappeared, too. This time security cameras caught a man in a white car grabbing it and taking off.

Vandeveer groused to a friend, a former police officer, that people kept taking his signs, and the man responded with a perfectly logical thought. If people like the sign so much that they keep stealing it, why don’t you make a bunch and sell them?

What a great idea. Vandeveer approached Ramos, who agreed to make 50 signs for him for $2.78 each, and he’d sell them and give the proceeds to the Women’s Bureau, which sponsors the Walk a Mile In Her Shoes walk, which is coming up Sept. 21.

Later, Vandeveer mentioned the turn of events to a friend at the FOP who also groused about the thieves who prowl the city, but this time Vandeveer responded with, “No no no. This is going to work out great.”

He’ll pay for the first 50 signs himself, sell them for $10 each and give all the proceeds to the Women’s Bureau. If those sell out, he’ll order 50 more and subtract the cost of making them, giving the Women’s Bureau $7.22 for each sign he sells.

So theoretically, if he sells 100 signs, the bureau would get $861, but it all depends on how many are sold.

Everybody wins, Vandeveer says.

So thanks to you old thieves. If not for your sticky fingers he’d never have had the idea.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.