Volunteer Joel Rodriguez shows the larger freezer that had meat stolen from it at the food pantry at Blessed Sacrament Church in Manchester. Turkeys destined for Thanksgiving food baskets, as well as other food and frozen meat, were taken. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)
MANCHESTER— Someone stole 15 turkeys destined for a food give-away Tuesday as well as two freezers full of meat and other staples from the food pantry at Blessed Sacrament Parish.
“If they were hungry, we would have fed them,” the Rev. John Bucchino said Tuesday.
But with so much food taken, he said: “I don’t think it was to satisfy hunger. Do you?”
The thieves even took the lollipops given out to children visiting the food pantry, said Colleen Hayward, the volunteer coordinator at Saint Anthony’s Food Pantry.
“I was sad for the people we serve,” Hayward said.
The burglar or burglars pushed in an air conditioning unit to gain entry. Hayward said she discovered the break-in Monday morning at the stand-alone building behind the church. She also spotted inside the food pantry two sleeping bags and other items she believes belonged to the burglar or burglars.
“I think they did (sleep there) because it was warm inside and I usually turn the heat off,” Hayward said.
According to Manchester police, a man and woman were seen making a new attempt to push in the pantry’s air conditioner about 10 a.m. Monday, but a pantry worker scared off the pair. The woman wore a long pink coat and the man jeans and a black leather jacket.
Bucchino said he expects word of the stolen food will prompt people to donate.
“It sends out a message to whoever did this: you’re not going to break our spirit,” he said. “Goodness always triumphs over evil.”
Other items taken included 200 jars of peanut butter, 100 cans of tuna fish, and various frozen meats, including roast, pork chops, chicken and hamburger distributed to people every Wednesday afternoon — except this week because Thanksgiving food baskets were given out Tuesday.
The food pantry helps about 150 families a week, about 25 percent more than last year. In all, it provides enough food every month for 3,000 meals, Hayward said.
People waiting outside the church to receive a Thanksgiving food basket and a frozen turkey were mad at the culprits.
“That’s an awful thing,” said a woman at the head of the line who gave only her first name, Ellen. “People need this. Everybody is just getting more broke. When are there going to be jobs for people?”
Robert Baker of Manchester wondered why.
“If anybody would have asked, they’d probably give it to you instead of stealing it,” he said.
The church plans to buy an alarm system for the food pantry, Hayward said.
Connie Miville, an agency relations manager at the New Hampshire Food Bank, said she had sent an extra 16 turkeys to join the 250 the food bank already planned to provide for Tuesday’s giveaway.
Miville said the food bank has an alarm system.
“It’s unfortunate that they have to spend that kind of money for an alarm system when they could be spending it on other resources,” Miville said of Blessed Sacrament.
She said she would work with Hayward to help replace the stolen food.
The food bank gets free meat from supermarkets and doles it out to various food pantries around the state. The food pantries pay the food bank between 3 and 6 cents a pound for the meat.
The burglary, Miville said, “puts a damper on the holiday spirit and what they’re trying to do.”
Tuesday night, a spokesman for the Saint Anthony’s Food Pantry said donations had been coming in all day. She suggested people who would like to help make donations to the New Hampshire Food Bank, which aids all food pantries.