NORTH FORK — It’s happened, yet again. Sometime between the afternoon of Christmas Eve on Sunday, Dec. 24 and Christmas morning, Monday, Dec. 25, the Senior Center at Grace Community Church was broken into and vandalized.
Church Trustee Don Grove says the back door was pulled open and damaged, despite the presence of extra locks installed after a string of prior break-ins. Vandals reportedly ransacked boxes of food designated for distribution to those less fortunate, leaving a mess on the back porch and steps that go down to the path. It doesn’t appear that whoever broke in was actually hungry or thirsty, as food was thrown on the ground and wasted, and a large family-style beverage had just sips taken from it. The Sheriff’s Office retrieved the beverage container and is testing it for fingerprints as possible evidence.
Such crimes have been committed several times this year against this church. While the church is not unfamiliar with break-ins and vandalism, there seems to be an escalation compared with years prior. In 2016, the church was targeted twice in April, alone. In January and February of 2015, thieves stole from the church, and these are just the incidents that are reported.
In addition, there’s an ongoing problem of people going through bags and items that have been dropped off for donation outside the Thrift Shop. Most of the time, the items have been torn through, with unwanted remains left strewn around in the dirt or mud, for church volunteers to clean up.
Anyone who needs items they can’t afford may simply ask the Thrift Shop volunteers to help them. The policy is to help those who are truly in need, which is why the prices are set so low. Items left outside the Thrift Shop are not free for the taking. However, guidelines say if someone cannot afford the low prices inside the Thrift Shop accommodations can sometimes be made.
The congregation believes that people who have broken into and vandalized church property comprise a very small portion of the population, and say repeatedly they have found the people of North Fork to be very generous and supportive of the many programs the church uses to support the community.
Everyone who chooses to come to their services is welcomed. The Church sends students to camp every year, and have helped the North Fork School pay for art, drama, music, field trips and sports programs. Grace Community gives food to residents for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and facilitates the Food Bank truck.
The cost of repairs and replacement of stolen items over the past year has had a strong negative effect on the budget and the small congregation at Grace Community Church may not be able to continue to provide all of the services it offers if the theft and vandalism continue.
Anyone who knows who may be responsible for these costly attacks on the church, or who has any information pertaining to the matter, is asked to contact authorities. Anyone with knowledge may be able to help the Sheriff’s Office stop the theft and vandalism. Reporting parties may choose to remain anonymous. This may allow the church to continue to help the community with as much as they do and maybe even more, with hope for a better new year.