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MIDDLETOWN FOOD PANTRY

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Vivian Moon View Drop Down
MUSA Council
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    Posted: May 16 2014 at 7:43pm

Updated: 5:44 p.m. Friday, May 16, 2014 | Posted: 5:16 p.m. Friday, May 16, 2014

Middletown food pantry burglarized

By Kevin Aldridge

Staff Writer

    MIDDLETOWN Thieves used a forklift to knock down a door at Family Services of Middletown and steal more than $1,800 worth of items from its warehouse Thursday night or early Friday morning, the pantry’s director Maurice Maxwell told the Journal-News.

    “What we feel disappointed about is that folks can come to us, and we don’t deny them of resources and things they need; they don’t have to steal from us,” Maxwell said Friday afternoon. “But I guess with the state of our economy right now, a lot of folks are desperate and feeling the pressure to pay bills and have the resources they need, so they go in the direction of theft.”

    Maxwell said the thieves broke into Family Services’ warehouse at 1311 Columbia Ave. through a back door on the west side of the building that faces a Middletown Division of Fire station. He said once inside, they went to a loading area where Family Services keeps most of its stock of non-perishable foods and donated items, and they took a forklift and backed it into a wall and a door, tearing it off the hinges.

    According to a Middletown police report, the thieves took an assortment of items, including: two lawnmower/weed eater (each $180 value), three gas vent pipes ($90), a self-propelled lawnmower ($350), table top fan ($100), 10 metal racks ($300), 10 bags of fertilizer ($400), two bags of charcoal ($20), 30 packs of cheese ($120) and six packs of Capri-Sun juice ($60). According to the report, there was “a leaf blower that was taken out and appeared to have been stripped of some of the metal that it contained.”

Maxwell said the value of the items stolen totalled more than $1,800. He said the thieves left a trail of items that they dropped as they fled through the battered door on the east side of the facility. He said they also left a calling card behind.

    “The area had a bottle of alcohol present. It’s clear they were enjoying it as they were in the process of taking our stuff,” he said.

    Maxwell said Family Services did not have a security system or cameras at the facility. He said the agency’s limited budget didn’t allow for it and officials relied on standard locks, being in a highly visible area and having close proximity to a fire station for security. But since the break-in, Maxwell said, the agency and its board are making getting a camera system for after-hours security “a top priority.”

    “It is going to happen, but we’ve got to raise the money to make that happen,” he said. “We are very concerned about what happens in the future until we can secure ourselves a little more.”

    According to the police report, officers located one drop of blood at the scene and it was collected as evidence. Maxwell provided names of volunteers to officers to help with the investigation, the report states.

    Maxwell called the break-in “a minor setback.” The agency, which has an $800,000 annual budget (more than $600,000 of which comes from in-kind food and other donations), serves between 800 and 1,200 families a month. Maxwell said for the first time in 30 years, Family Services will not be offering its summer food program for children because the agency could no longer afford to. Last year, the program served more than 28,000 lunches to city youth.

    Maxwell said resident support of Family Service has always been strong, and that there would probably be those who will step up to help the agency after this unfortunate incident.

“It certainly doesn’t make us feel good that people have to take stuff from us,” he said. “So people might ask, ‘Why would somebody steal from a place that’s trying to help people?’ When people are desperate, they lose their conscience around what concern it is, or its purpose, or what it does for the community and others. They are focused only on the value of what they are getting and how they can turn it around and help their own needs.”

Staff Writer Lot Tan contributed to this report.

 

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