CLARENVILLE, NL – The time leading up to Christmas is the busiest time of year for the Salvation Army Church as it runs the Red Kettle campaign and food bank, and holds regular services.
However, after a break-in earlier this week, the people at the church have much more work to clean up the mess left behind.
Major Anthony LeDrew says thieves broke into the church Monday night, Nov. 13.
“Every part of the church was torn apart,” LeDrew told the Packet on Friday.
He says when he and his wife arrived at the church on Tuesday morning, they noticed the door was open.
Upon further investigation, they realized it had been pried open with a crowbar. The door, which had a deadbolt lock, was so damaged it needed to be replaced.
He says the two office doors were kicked in, mirrors smashed and everything on each of the desks thrown to the floor.
“All our files were everywhere, and we were the only ones who could put that back because we had to know exactly where it was going,” said LeDrew.
In the church, a flat-screen television used for presentations was pulled off the wall. The sound room was also ransacked.
The thieves even smashed another TV in the basement and completely upturned the food bank area.
“There’s no money down there, but they just took everything off the shelves down there and threw everything on the floor,” said LeDrew.
An electric guitar and some musical equipment were stolen, as well as some cash for postage from the Samaritan shoeboxes to be sent away, and three laptops. Expensive computer programs on the laptops will need to be replaced.
Anthony suspects thieves were unable to find the safe — which was empty anyway because they do bank deposits every night.
“It was right in the midst of us doing our kettle kick off,” he says. “A lot of it is going to go through our insurance, but we’ve got a $1,000-deductible.”
LeDrew says RCMP is investigating, having found fingerprints on the crowbar left behind and on the TVs.
“We always say, ‘How can you bite the hand that feeds you?’”
The Salvation Army was closed for most of the week. Police were on scene for a couple of days, and a seniors’ dinner was cancelled as a result. On Friday, a new door was installed in the back. Plans for a regular service on Sunday were not cancelled.
The food bank also opened on Tuesday for about 40 people, but they needed a lot of help to clean up the mess left behind to do so.
Going forward, LeDrew says they will be extra cautious to ensure nothing like this happens again, even though they took every precaution prior to the incident anyway.
“It is a stressful time for us,” he said. “It brought a lot of pressure right at the time we were getting all our applications done for the food hampers … all our work that we done preparing for the busy Christmas rush, it has set us back.”
He also thanked those who called, and other churches that reached out.
“We’ll be okay … Out of all this, maybe something more positive might come out of it all, touch people’s hearts that they might give a little. It will all help.”