August 3, 2012

Thieves, vandals target food pantry that helps 3,100 families in need each week

By John Shaughnessy

Thieves and vandals have struck the Society of St. Vincent de Paul food pantry in Indianapolis, making it harder for the all-volunteer organization to provide help to people in need, according to its president.

On the night of July 27, vandals caused an estimated $12,000 in damage by smashing the windows and slashing the tires of three trucks that the organization uses to pick up food donations from across the city.

The vandalism followed an incident in March when thieves removed copper condenser coils from six rooftop air conditioning units at the food pantry at 3001 E. 30th St. That crime cost the organization about $15,000 in “out of pocket expenses” after insurance coverage, said Pat Jerrell, president of the society’s Indianapolis Archdiocesan Council.

The thefts and vandalism have frustrated the organization’s volunteers and hurt the effort to help the 3,100 families—or about 10,000 people—that the food pantry serves each week.

“Every dollar that we spend on repairing things like this is a dollar that we don’t spend on helping people,” Jerrell said. “We don’t have money to spare. It’s going to be difficult to continue our mission on this level if we have unforeseen expenses from crimes committed against us. Our volunteers are frustrated. Our leadership team is frustrated.”

Besides replacing the air conditioning units, the organization has installed security equipment that includes lights, cameras and tampering sensors that are wired into the air conditioners and connected to the pantry’s alarm system.

Pantry managers have told the clients about the crimes and have also asked them for any information they may have heard about the people who committed the crimes.

“We don’t understand why people are targeting us,” Jerrell said. “We’re trying to help people. We ask whoever is doing this to think about the negative impact that this is having on hungry people in the community.”

Despite the crimes, Jerrell still focuses on the organization’s mission of help and hope. He recited one of his favorite Bible verses from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans: “Affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:3-5).

“We have hope in the Holy Spirit,” Jerrell said.

(Anyone wishing to make donations to help with the unexpected costs from the theft and the vandalism may mail checks to Society of St. Vincent de Paul, 3001 E. 30th St., Indianapolis, IN 46218 or donate online at

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