Donations of money and food are refilling the shelves at St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church in West Baltimore after thieves stole hundreds of pounds of chicken, eggs and butter intended for holiday baskets for the needy.
"We're just very, very appreciative," said the Rev. Donald A. Sterling, pastor of the Walbrook church. "It renews your sense of family."
Southwestern District police have made no arrests in the theft, which occurred between 9 p.m. Thursday and 8:30 a.m. Friday, and an investigation is continuing. But church officials believe that someone familiar with the church stole the food -- 150 pounds of butter, 200 pounds of chicken and about 20 dozen eggs -- as well as four poor boxes and money from a soda machine.
The thieves looked in drawers that contained church vestments, apparently in search of money, but didn't vandalize the church. They also bypassed stocks of canned food.
"Whoever did it knew where they were going and exactly what they wanted," said Brian K. Johnson, director of religious education for thechurch.
Youths from a community karate program use the church, Father Sterling said, and 40 to 45 youths attended Thursday's program, which ended at 9 p.m., just before the church was locked for the night.
The church also runs a soup kitchen between 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. on Thursdays, but Father Sterling said it was unlikely that someone could have stayed inside the church from that program undetected.
After news reports of the theft Friday and yesterday, people have been calling the church to offer their support.
"We have received monetary promises, and some people have come by with food," Father Sterling said, "not just from this area but from different parts of the city."
Mr. Johnson said the donations probably will allow the church to provide the generous food baskets originally planned. "Things are going back to normal," he said.