By Johnny Jackson
Lori Miller was one of the first people to arrive at the scene the morning of Sept. 16, when she discovered the one thing that would, for a few days, upset the lives of 65 area families.
She discovered that one of the box trucks at Helping in His
Name Ministries, Inc., Food Pantry had been stolen.
"I was devastated," said Miller, the executive director of the food pantry. "They drove the truck right through our fence. I literally cried."
Thieves stole the food pantry's 25-foot, white, box truck and rammed it through the gate that connects the building and warehouse to its back parking lot.
The truck contained 6,500 pounds of food and supplies. The load was the pantry's supply for the weekend, until it received another load on Thursday.
The pantry uses the stocks of food and supplies to feed its growing clientele - one that has increased daily to some 530 area families. In all, 24,362 people have been served year-to-date by the food pantry, according to Miller.
"The need is so great," she said. "Our calls have doubled in the last six weeks."
Several items were stolen, according to the police report on the incident provided by Henry County Police Officer Jim Cox. The items included: four boxes of diapers, six boxes of toys, and 10 pallets of food - $12,500 worth. About $550 worth of tools were also stolen. The cost to replace the damaged gate is roughly $1,200, and the truck itself was worth roughly $15,000.
Henry County Police are on the lookout for the vehicle and those responsible for stealing it and damaging the pantry's property.
"I feel so violated," said Pantry Director Donna Crumbley. "The food is what we needed."
The stolen food, though a big loss to the pantry, was not the biggest lost for the pantry. The loss of the truck hit the pantry hardest, according to Crumbley.
"Not our truck," she said. "That's our life line. That's our heartbeat. That food is given to us mostly, and we had to go pick it up, or the donors will just give it to somebody else."
With the holiday season approaching and daily demand increasing, the pantry has been unable to salvage a stockpile of non-perishable food to distribute later this fall.
"We're hurting," Crumbley said. "Our shelves are bare. We're serving over 60 families a day. It's just a sad time. That food would have lasted us probably a week or too, but now the holidays are coming upon us.
"We've had things stolen before, like a lawn mower or drinks. But for somebody to be so blatant to come onto our property, hot-wire our truck, and slam the gate down is just evil. I'm grieved that someone would do this to us, when we're helping people. My heart's broken."
On the net:
Helping in His Name Food Pantry: http://helpinginhisname.org