Thieves broke into the basement of St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church in Walbrook and stole several hundred pounds of food the church had intended to include in Christmas baskets for the needy, Baltimore police said yesterday.
The thieves who broke into the 88-year-old church at Hilton Street and Windsor Avenue between 9 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 a.m. yesterday also ripped four poor boxes from the walls of the church and made off with them.
Church officials said the theft would not stop them from distributing Christmas food baskets to the needy of the Southwest Baltimore parish, just as they did at Thanksgiving.
"It puts a damper on our plans, but everyone who signed up for a basket wi ll still receive one," said Brian K. Johnson, director of religious education for the church. "We will just have to pinch pennies and ask our parishioners to give a little more."
The burglars broke into the basement of the church and stole 150 pounds of butter, 200 pounds of chicken, about 20 dozen eggs and some lesser amounts of other foods from freezers in the hallway, the police said.
Investigators said the thieves then broke into a soda machine and removed a coin box before going up a stairway leading into the church, where they forced open a door and tore four poor boxes, containing an undetermined amount of cash, from the walls and carried them off.
Some church vestments were thrown about, but there was no serious damage or missing items, Mr. Johnson said. He said valuable silver and gold items were kept in a church safe.
Most of the church buildings are equipped with burglar alarms, but not the church itself, he said.
"Some years ago, you never heard of a church door being locked. Now they are not only locked but are equipped with burglar alarms," Mr. Johnson said. "I guess we might have to consider that."
The church gave out about 25 food baskets to needy residents of the neighborhood for Thanksgiving and were gearing up for the Christmas holidays.
"These baskets are for families who might otherwise go without sufficient foods this Christmas," Mr. Johnson said. "It goes beyond just a Christmas dinner. There are a lot of other non-perishable goods in the basket to help them along afterward."
He said the quantities of food given out varied according to the size of the family. "Some of them have as many as 10 family members," he said. "Many of the families have been on the list for years."