The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Odd Thieves Who Target a Soup Kitchen

Although I didn't intend to mention this particular incident on the blog, today I thought it might be worth sharing. And perhaps someone can give me some insight into the psychology of thievery. First a little background.

I'm president of the board of the Wildwood Soup Kitchen, an ecumenical ministry located in Wildwood, Florida, a few miles from our home here in The Villages. We have upwards of 150 volunteers from approximately 30 different local churches, and serve a full, hot meal Monday through Friday to anyone who comes through the door hungry. We also deliver a little more than 100 meals daily to shut-ins and others who, for any number of reasons, are unable to come to the Soup Kitchen to eat. Last year we served or delivered over 62,000 meals. The total number of meals has increased every year since the Soup Kitchen opened 15 years ago.

All of this is accomplished solely through volunteers. We have no paid employees. And we are blessed that the First Presbyterian Church of Wildwood has, for over a dozen years now, let us use their fellowship hall and kitchen every weekday from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. This is by no means a "mega-church"; indeed it is a small community church with about 100 members.

When it comes to operating expenses, we rely completely on donations. We receive money from individuals, local churches, local businesses, community and neighborhood groups, and civic organizations. We take no government funds. We are also blessed to receive frequent donations of food from these same sources.

Although our donors are very generous, we certainly don't have a lot of money. And neither do we keep much cash on the premises. We did, however, have a small safe, which we used to store the occasional check that someone might drop off or the small donations made by some of our guests. It was usually emptied every day or two. We like to keep the money we have in the bank.

Last week someone broke into the soup kitchen and stole the safe. The safe contained no cash or checks, just a few receipts from local grocery stores. So the thieves got nothing. Presumably, by forcing open the safe they also made it useless and would be unable to resell it. To our knowledge, nothing else was taken, not even any food.

Now I've thought about this all week and just can't imagine the kind of person who would break into a soup kitchen and steal a safe. You'd think there would be far more tempting targets in town. But then I suppose the average thief isn't all that bright. It still bothers me though. If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

And there have been some other ramifications. Because of the possible involvement of one or two community service people, we will no longer allow people sentenced to community service to complete their hours by working at the soup kitchen. This was a decision beyond my control, and it saddens me that we won't be able to help these folks, most of whom have been good workers just trying to get their lives straightened out.

Ah, well, we will continue to do as Jesus instructed us -- "When I was hungry you gave me food..." -- and trust that He will continue to guide us and support us in doing His work.

God's's there for the asking.

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