Less than a month before a scheduled 75th anniversary celebration and fundraiser to repair their church grounds, burglars have broken into the New Sweet Home Church of God in Christ in East Palo Alto, making off with an estimated tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and damaging the church, Rev. Albert Macklin said.
Staff members arrived for prayer on Tuesday, July 22, and noticed that the 70-inch flat-screen television in Fellowship Hall was missing. All that was left were the holes in the wall where the screws had been.
They called Macklin to see if someone had been asked to remove it, but he said no one had. They searched the rest of the church and discovered that two doors had been kicked in leading to the finance and media rooms. The finance room had a metal door, Macklin said.
The burglar or burglars stole two duplicators for DVDs and CDs and two computers, one that contained financial records. The equipment -- in particular the duplicators -- was expensive. Macklin said the sum lost is in the tens of thousands of dollars.
The church, which is located at 2170 Capitol Ave., is set to celebrate its 75th anniversary Aug. 13-16 with special services and a free concert. The celebrations are also a fundraiser to repair the parking lot and install an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp and remodel the kitchen.
But those plans must now be put on hold to replace the doors and repair the damage the burglars did to the building. Funding the repairs and replacing equipment won't be easy for the 200-member church, Macklin said.
"We do not have a lot of money. Every dime we get in is very crucial," he said.
The church has an eight-bed shelter for homeless people and a transitional drug and alcohol program, which are funded by Friday and Saturday barbecues, Macklin said.
For now, staff has boarded up the door to the finance room. Macklin, who is legally blind, cannot see the extent of the damage or know exactly all that is missing. He must rely on his staff, and they will have to go through the wreckage to discover what else might be missing, he said.
The break-in has also made the pastor, who has always opened his door "on faith" despite his blindness, much more cautious.
"After this, I'm not going to do that anymore," he said, adding that he will probably get an intercom and perhaps surveillance cameras.
Macklin said police think someone came in through a window, since a screen was found on the ground.
"The case is still being investigated, and we're still conducting canvasses of the area to see if there were any witnesses. Unfortunately, there are no leads at this moment," East Palo Alto police Sgt. Angel Sanchez said.
Donations to help New Sweet Home can be sent to New Sweet Home Church, P.O. Box 50214, Palo Alto, CA, 94303. Those who wish to help can call the church at 650-325-1467.
The anniversary celebration includes services on Aug. 13 at 7:30 p.m.; a free gospel concert on Aug. 14 at 7:30 p.m.; and Aug. 16 services at 9:45 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. The latter service will include the Bishop J.W. Macklin.