PLEASANTVILLE — Victory AME Zion Church was broken into last week and about $15,000 worth of items was stolen, church members said.
Small kitchen appliances, tables, tools, production and sound equipment, masks, hand sanitizer, paper products and packaged food for the church’s community food pantry were discovered stolen April 17, said Mersadies Bonilla, an Atlantic City resident who assists the church’s pastor, Ethel Wade. Wade said a back window of the church was broken when the break-in was discovered.
Bonilla said a police report was filed. No charges have been filed, and the case remains under investigation, police Capt. Matt Hartman said.
The church’s community pantry distributes canned and prepared foods to about 90 families every third Friday. The last distribution had about 120 families, Wade said.
Local food pantries have seen an increase in the number of people they serve, some as much as 300%.
She said the church’s food pantry is in partnership with the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, which will continue to provide shipments of food for the pantry. The next food pantry day is noon May 15. Families in need will be able to collect food items in the front of the church.
All other stolen items will be replaced with insurance funds, Bonilla said.
“The biggest thing (Wade) needs is security cameras and to have the (broken) window replaced,” she said. “My main concern is the safety of the building.”
To maintain safety, community members are taking shifts checking on the church, making sure all doors are locked, every other day, Bonilla said.
The church has been holding the food pantry service for about 18 months, Wade said.
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“At first, of course, it was very upsetting,” she said of the break-in. “But I’m also realizing that we’re living in a time where people are desperate. People’s minds are mixed up, and sometimes they are desperate. Whoever was involved, we’re praying for them and hoping they get their minds right and hoping they don’t do it to someone else.”
She said the church will move on and continue to serve the community.
“That’s not going to stop us,” she said. “People are in need, and that’s what we’re there for.”
Those looking to make donations of lost items to the church can contact Wade or Sandra Newman at Victoryamezion@gmail.com or by calling 609-272-7697.
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Correction: An earlier version of this story said the church’s door was unlocked. The door was discovered unlocked after the break in.