The owner of a Paihia store hit by a donation box thief is giving $250 to the charity to make sure sick kids don't miss on help as a result of the crime.

A man stole a Kidney Kids donation box containing up to $60 from the counter of the Paihia Four Square, a store worker recognising him a short time later at another shop and alerting the police.

An off-duty officer found the alleged thief and arrested him, then chased him across Paihia when he ran off. She followed him to a house, where he was taken into custody.

The thief was believed to have spent most of the money on cigarettes and alcohol.

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Four Square owner-operator Scott Jackson said he would donate $250 to the charity so it wouldn't end up out of pocket.

"We're a community store, and our customers give to these boxes. We deal with theft - it comes with the territory of being a retailer - but when it's a charity that really cuts deep. It affects us more than normal," he said.

Jackson praised the "outstanding" police officers, who he knew only as Paul and Pippa, who had responded.

''Pippa especially needs credit. She was off duty but just jumped into action. She is a model of what a police officer should be," he said.

Kidney Kids chief executive Keith Mackenzie said he was grateful to Paihia Four Square, which was a long-term supporter of the charity, and to those who gave chase and caught the culprit.

The charity supported about 450 children and their families, 61 of whom lived in Northland.

"You get very upset when you hear about incidents like this. It's hard to believe that anyone is that much of a lowlife to steal a donation box from a charity," he said.

"I suppose they don't have any morals, and don't understand the needs those kids have."

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The donation would be particularly valuable now because the charity's income had all but dried up during the Covid-19 lockdown, and was not expected to recover for the next six months.

The charity had some money in reserve, however, so it was able to continue work that was now more important than ever, because children with kidney conditions were at greater risk from infections such as Covid-19.

"Anyone who has chronic kidney disease will have a had a transplant, which means they're on immune-suppressant drugs for the rest of their lives, and they have to be extra cautious," Mackenzie said, adding that donation boxes were not the charity's biggest revenue stream, but they were important, and they helped keep the Kidney Kids name in the public eye.

■ Brummen Cooper, 27, has appeared in the Whangārei District Court charged with theft, escaping custody and possession of cannabis. He was allegedly also breaching his bail conditions.