A charity has launched a community appeal after bikes and new tools were stolen during a break-in at its bike hut in Musselburgh.

John Gee, a cycle leader at Changes, which helps people with mental health issues, said he was “sickened” when he arrived at the storage facility in Lewisvale Park to find it had been broken into for the third time this year.

He added: “Bikes and tools were strewn all around – the shed was in an awful state. It was the vandalism that sickened me as much as the theft.

“I would like to think that the people who did this would feel regret if they knew just how much the Changes participants got out of the cycling beginners’ classes and follow-on rides which they have jeopardised.”

Kelly Thacker, project development co-ordinator at Changes, said they had now vacated their bike hut in the park and were using a temporary storage facility until a permanent one could be found.

She appealed to supporters across East Lothian to rally round with donations of good quality bikes and tools to keep the charity’s cycle initiative going.

“Changes Community Health Project exists to promote positive mental health and wellbeing across East Lothian, through a range of healthy living activities, training and therapeutic services,” she said. “One of our activities was local cycle rides.

“Volunteers, who are trained to lead cycle groups, take people in the community out on regular cycle rides to boost confidence on a bike, spend more time outdoors, reduce loneliness and support health and fitness.

“Those who haven’t been on a bike before or not for a long time can hugely benefit from the beginners’ sessions. We run intermediate and advanced groups too.”

She added: “We realise not everyone owns their own bike, helmet and high-vis vest, and have worked hard to build up a stock of equipment that can be loaned to people in the community who want to join us.

“We feel strongly that everyone should be able to access this activity.

“Many of the volunteers have kindly donated high quality bikes and tools so the project can keep running. We have been able to purchase some equipment too through various small funding pots.

“These have been stored in our hut – a perfect place to set off on our cycle rides.”

She said that several bikes were taken along with many brand new tools.

“This is the third break-in and we have attempted to secure the doors using substantial locks fitted by a local blacksmith,” explained Kelly.

“Unfortunately the tools and brute force being used just leave us too vulnerable and we have vacated the premises.”

Kelly said: “We are appealing to members of the public across East Lothian to donate any good quality bikes, equipment or bike tools that can help us get back up and running again.

“We would particularly love to hear from anyone in the Musselburgh area who might have a storage solution for us and our bikes. We need somewhere that is secure and allows space for maintenance to take place too. We have been using our hut for free up until now and, as a charity, have few funding options to purchase space.

“We would also be keen that anyone who spots a discarded bike to get in contact with the local police station as it may be one of ours.”

Derek Williams, a cycle ride volunteer, said: “The break-ins have been very upsetting and disruptive.

“We’ve had to cancel cycling sessions and postpone new groups starting up. With summer coming to an end it may mean some new groups could now have to wait until next year to start cycling.

“We know that people on the Changes courses benefit in so many ways from their cycling and this just sets us back in being able to provide such a valued activity.”

In a statement, Police Scotland said: “Police are appealing for any witnesses or information following a break in to a storage unit in Lewisvale Park, Musselburgh.

“The break-in was discovered on August 10, whereby a number of pedal cycles were stolen overnight.

“The owners of the bikes are a local charity who provide support to those in need in the local community.

“If you have come across any bikes which look to have been abandoned in the area or have any information relating to this please contact police on 101 quoting incident number 0614 10/08/2021.”

Changes Community Health Project, which is based on Musselburgh’s Market Street, helps people achieve and maintain positive mental health and wellbeing. Services are free and open to anyone over the age of 16, living or registered with a GP in East Lothian.

The charity can help with a wide range of challenges which might include stress, panic, low mood, low self-esteem, anxiety, worry, depression and negative thinking.

To donate to Changes’ appeal go to https://www.justgiving.com/changeschp

Details of the cycling courses are on the Changes website or by emailing info@changeschp.org.uk or by calling the Changes office on 0131 653 3977.