Two vans belonging to East Palo Alto's Ecumenical Hunger Program were vandalized on Monday, April 20, causing nearly $2,000 in damage and hampering some services, LaKesha Roberts-Evans, donation and food coordinator, said.
Ecumenical Hunger provides food, furniture and clothing to needy individuals and families in East Palo Alto and Menlo Park, and it provides the furniture and clothing to other cities in San Mateo County. The nonprofit provides services to up to 1,800 individuals, including 350 to 500 families, Roberts-Evans said.
Staff arrived at the Pulgas Avenue facility on Tuesday morning and discovered that the front-gate fence had been cut and the company vans were vandalized.
"The windows were busted out, the hoods were popped open, the batteries were removed and the cables were cut. Our cargo van is used for our smaller pick-ups and drop-offs and our passenger vans are used for our youth group members, who rely on the vans to get home safely," she said.
Staff had to scramble to get food picked up and delivered by using a small truck and the personal vehicles of staff, volunteers and the community. But they haven't been able to deliver furniture and appliances.
"A lot of clients can't rent U-Hauls or trucks and we have furniture waiting," Roberts-Evans said. Some youth-group members had to walk home after a meeting yesterday, she added.
So far, repairs will cost an estimated $1,700, but Roberts-Evans is waiting for a final total on the glass replacement.
The organization decided to publicize the vandalism, to make people more aware of what services Ecumenical Hunger provides and the affect of stealing from an organization that benefits so many needy people, she said.
"We've been around for something like 40 years. It hurts us to know that somebody who is in our community would do something like this," she said. Last year, someone cut the fuel lines and siphoned the gas out of the vans, she added.
Sears has offered to provide two new batteries, and several people are calling to offer help. The group is looking to replace the existing fence with wrought iron to make it more difficult for someone to cut.
Ecumenical Hunger does have surveillance cameras to protect the campus from dumping and vandalism, and the cameras did catch images of the man who broke into the vans, she said. That footage has been given to the East Palo Alto Police Department. Ecumenical Hunger is asking the public to report any suspicious activity to the police.
Persons interested in donating to help replace the fence can visit the website at ehpcares.org, select donate, and include "New Gate" in the memo section of the donation form.