A community-minded southern Ontario man is searching for answers along with a parking meter he re-purposed to raise money for charity. The machine was snatched from atop its metal pole less than two weeks after it was installed.

Lincoln McCardle campaigned for about two years for permission to install five “kindness meters” -- repurposed coin-operated parking meters -- in high-traffic public spaces around London, Ont.

He wanted to give charitable passersby who want to help the less fortunate, but may not feel comfortable handing over money directly, an easy option for making donations. The idea has seen success in a number of Canadian urban centres.

The theft was brought to McCardle’s attention on social media on Monday night. Bryan Lucier posted a photo of the empty pole.

“This is so London -- did someone actually steal the Kindness Meter in Ivey Park for a fistful of pocket change?” wrote Lucier in a tweet.

McCardle said he was stunned by the news.

“It hasn’t sunk in. I’m not even angry yet. I may get there eventually, but given the nature of what the meters are all about, the fact that someone has senselessly . . . stolen the meter itself. It is hard to fathom,” he told CTV London on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, he had five machines re-keyed and painted bright blue. He said the local Salvation Army agreed to collect the coins in exchange for directing 40 per cent of the proceeds towards their in-house charity initiatives.

The fate of the remaining 60 per cent will be determined by suggestions on the Kindness Meters London Facebook page. According to a recent post, $224.71 has been raised thus far.

“I can understand a parking meter,” said McCardle. “Maybe somebody got a ticket. They want to take it out on the meter. But given this is a kindness initiative. I thought it would be no issue, but I was way off.”

Salvation Army spokesperson Shannon Wise said her organization is very happy with the results so far.

“We believe London will have a great reaction, and turn this thing around into a positive,” she said. “I know the Salvation Army and other non-profits here believe this won't define us as a city.”

“I am hopeful that at least we can make a difference,” McCardle told CTV London last Thursday. “We just thought it was such a good idea.”

He said he has personally combed the park where the metre was stolen, but his search has not yielded any answers. He figures each meter weighs about 100 pounds, and hopes whoever stole it gave up and dropped it nearby.

Without specialized tools, he said, it will be difficult for a thief to open. He said he is also brainstorming theft prevention measures for the four remaining metres. A rotating sleeve fixed to the pole that would make it more difficult to cut is one option he is considering.

“I know this one was pretty full,” McCardle said. “It’s very sad when people want to do something very kind and somebody comes along and takes all that away.”

With a report from CTV London