Thieves broke into a West Baltimore church today and stole an estimated $300 from four poor boxes, then moved to the downstairs church hall where they took 200 pounds of frozen chicken and 150 pounds of butter that was to feed the homeless.
"It was a mess," said Eleanor Taylor, housekeeper at St. Cecelia's Roman Catholic Church, 3300 Windsor Ave. She said that the intruders also sacked the church sacristy and broke open a soda machine and stole an undetermined amount of change.
According to city police spokesman Dennis Hill, the thieves jimmied a side door to the church and proceeded to rip four poor boxes off the wall.
The boxes, Hill said, contained an estimated $300.
They then moved to the church sacristy where they opened closets, removed various vestments worn by priests at mass celebrations, and threw them on the floor.
Downstairs, where the church operates its soup kitchen for the area homeless, the thieves went into a freezer and stole the U.S. government surplus whole cut chicken and butter. They packed their booty into heavy-duty trash bags that they brought along for the job, Hill said.
Taylor said that the church feeds between 125 and 150 homeless persons every Thursday with the government-supplied food.
She said the stolen chicken and butter represented about a six-month supply.
"We'll just have to wait and see because we don't have anything else to feed the people with," Taylor said. She added the church is resupplied every six months.
The break-in was discovered today by Paul Johnson, principal of St. Cecelia's pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade school, who was escorting some children to the church hall to practice for a Christmas play.
He said he thinks the children were not aware of the theft and vandalism until police cars arrived and lab technicians searched the church and hall.