PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland non-profit that provides books to underserved communities needs help after they were the victim of thieves.

The Bookmobile Babe started a few years ago as a way to bring free books to children and adults in parts of Multnomah County that don’t have easy access to libraries, but since their van was stolen last month, it’s made their mission that much more difficult.

“I think reading is super empowering for everyone,” said Christie Quinn, president of The Bookmobile Babe. “I think literacy is critical to survival.”

The power of a good book: it’s an experience Quinn is working to bring to children and adults in the Portland area who may not otherwise get the chance.

“We’re kind of known as a reading town and we do have a lot of library branches but in east county like at Lents Park where I work, even Gateway Discovery Park where we do a lot of our work, there aren’t a lot of branches out there,” said Quinn.

For the past few years since launching The Bookmobile Babe, Quinn and fellow volunteers have packed up her minivan, bringing hundreds of free books to underserved communities in Multnomah County.

However, last month after covering the Portland Night Market, Quinn returned to the home she was house-sitting at in Ladd’s Addition in Southeast Portland, only to wake up the next morning to find the bookmobile gone. She says luckily, most of the books were kept at the market for night two, but around $200 worth of new children’s books inside were also taken.

“It is sad and heartbreaking,” said Quinn. “It makes me sad for the safety of our city, frankly.”

In the weeks since, the 501(c)(3) non-profit team has kept an eye out for the bookmobile, with little luck.

“We think the van has been sighted by the PNW Recovered Vehicles group on Facebook but it was hard to tell because they had removed the license plates when they spotted it so we couldn’t say for certain whether it was the bookmobile,” said Quinn. “It was spotted in northeast Portland being towed by a white pickup truck.”

Currently, The Bookmobile Babe is fundraising for a replacement, with hopes of ramping efforts back up as the school year starts.

“Libraries are the last remaining free community spaces and that’s something that we’re trying to do with the bookmobile is create this sense of community,” said Quinn.

The Bookmobile Babe also hopes to launch a bookstore soon, but in the meantime, they’re continuing to fundraise for a new vehicle to reach as many communities as they can. A GoFundMe is set up for donations.