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Friday 21 September 2018
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SOUP KITCHEN BURGLARS

No meals for hungry and homeless after break-in

GONE: Chief cook Joan Lee Chong points to the space left after a stove was stolen from the soup kitchen of the Holy Cross RC Church in Princes Town. PHOTO BY ANIL RAMPERSAD.

HEARTLESS criminals have deprived the poor, needy, homeless and children of hot meals by stealing items including food from the Holy Cross RC Church’s soup kitchen on the church compound in Buen Intento Road, Princes Town.

This church has run the soup kitchen for over 30 years and every Wednesday, church members volunteer their time to dish out bowls of hot soup to needy families in the Princes Town community. The homeless also benefited.

But yesterday, when they turned up at the soup kitchen in a room at the side of the church, they had to leave with empty hands and empty stomachs. Just over 100 people are served the meal every Wednesday, church members told Newsday.

Newsday was told police are investigating just how the burglar-proofing and the lock on the gate remained intact after the theft. It was at about 2 pm on Tuesday that a group of male and female church members discovered what had happened when they went to prepare for cooking yesterday’s soup.

When they unlocked the room and went in, everything they needed was missing: a four-burner stove, two blenders, a microwave oven, a pressure cooker, rice, oil, potatoes and ground provisions.

Chief cook Joan Lee Chong who has been overseeing the preparations for the for the past 19 years, said, “It is bad enough that thieves will target the church, but here it is we provide meals for people who do not not have food.” She said the needy look forward to being fed on Wednesday and she grieved yesterday when church members had to turn them away. “It was very sad to see the look on their faces.” Lee Chong said church members locked the kitchen on Monday and left planning to return on Tuesday to peel the ground provisions. That day, she said, they found the lock on the front door intact. But they were baffled when they opened the door and saw first that the stove and microwave were gone.

They searched the room and found the other items missing. “I am saying that the thieves may have access to the church locks and may strike again if these locks are not changed,” the chief cook said. The soup-kitchen volunteers were unable to make alternative arrangements to feed the needy in time for yesterday.

“We feed sometimes over 100 people. But earlier today, as each family and homeless came to the church, we told them ‘Sorry, we cannot provide a meal today’. We had to tell children they could not eat today,” Lee Chong said, wiping away tears.

The total loss was estimated at $10,000. Parish priest Fr Santhosh Puliyammakkal, who is from India, declined to comment but vowed to address the issue in his sermon on Sunday. In November 2011, a thief entered the church and stole some of the vessels for the the Holy Eucharist, which were kept near the altar. In that incident as well, church members told Newsday, there were no visible signs of forced entry. Tuesday’s burglary follows the June 11 robbery at the Hare Krishna Temple in Longdenville, Chaguanas, where devotees were attacked by bandits carrying guns and cutlasses. They were tied up while the bandits stole $20,000 in cash and gold ornaments.

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