Salvation Army Maj. Steven Pearl announced Tuesday the organization’s meal program reopened its doors after a series of burglaries resulted in having to temporarily suspend the program.
Pearl said he and his wife have been running the charitable organization since July 2018 and have never had a problem with theft until early September, when six burglaries took place within a two-week time span.
“The first couple times it was just some little things that went missing and we couldn’t really figure it out,” Pearl said. He and his wife had noticed small things disappear, such as boxes of paper towels or cases of chicken.
That changed on the night of Sept. 6, a Friday.
“We came in Saturday morning to the store and noticed someone had been in there for a good amount of time. They had cut locks and ripped off hasps and broken doors. Ultimately, they went away with a bunch of stuff,” Pearl said.
The pantry had been stripped of its food, but Pearl said that was just the start. Two more incidents followed on Sunday and Monday that were worth even more.
Pearl said the value of items stolen in each successive burglary got larger. The thieves “finally broke into the chapel and stole the electronics, the mixing board, the speakers, the microphone, the projector. Even the pantry had six cases of tuna, chicken, and all kinds of stuff taken.”
A total of $8,000 worth of goods were taken. Pearl said he can file an insurance claim, but there will be a hefty deductible fee that must be paid for each separate burglary.
Though the burglaries left the organization’s pantry bare, Pearl said it was their top priority to reopen the meal program, which offers meals to the public Monday through Friday.
“We were concerned and wanted to get the meals back up and running as fast as we could because we serve anywhere from 120 to 150 people each day. It’s important to us,” Pearl said.
The meal program began serving food again on Tuesday, good news that Pearl was eager to share.
The VIPD was informed of the earlier thefts before the larger burglaries had caused the temporary suspension of the meal program. Pearl said the police had indicated they would patrol more actively in the area, but that did not appear to deter the robbers.
Pearl said it has been a “frustrating experience,” getting new locks, figuring out how the burglars got in or how to secure doors. But he said he is confident the new security measures will be enough to ward off intruders.
Security agencies such as ADT have offered to assist the organization and that it is certainly better secured now.
Information on how to donate to St. Thomas’ Salvation Army is online at https://vi.salvationarmy.org/ or available by calling 340-776-0070.