“A lot of people depend on this,” said Lori Williamson while waiting for the kitchen to open Wednesday. “When you take from people here you take from everybody, you take from the community.”
The Tuesday after the holiday weekend, employees returned to the soup kitchen, which is located in a house on Moore Avenue, to find no visible signs of the theft. But once inside, they discovered hundreds of dollars worth of food had been taken from its freezers, and a computer was missing.
Turner said the thief or thieves made off with 120 pounds of ground beef and 300 pounds of chicken, leaving just two 40-pound bags of chicken. When the food shortage caused the kitchen to close temporarily, rumors began circulating that it would not reopen, but it replenished its supplies enough to get by and was operating by the end of that week.
"We are absolutely not closed, and we have no intention of closing," Turner said.
She valued the loss at about $1,000, which is only a fraction of the kitchen’s $60,000 annual budget, but still set the organization’s budget back by a couple of months. Turner said she felt police wouldn’t be able to track the burglar because she thought most of the items taken would have been eaten up before they could locate them, so she never reported the crime.
"How do you look for 40-pound cases of chicken? You don't, so I would have accomplished nothing," she said. "It was just a no-win situation."
But authorities disagree. Police say it is always important to file a report after being burglarized, not just to seek justice for your own loss, but to try to prevent the offender from stealing again.
“You need to step up and report the crime so the police can try to do their job the best they can and to get that person off the street,” said Capt. Richard Smith with the Anniston Police Department. “If nothing else, it will help the next person.”
Maudine Holloway, a member of the Soup Bowl’s board of directors, said the thief’s acts were shameful.
Holloway, who also serves as the director of another local charity, Community Enabler Developer, said that organization was also burglarized this year. In that case, the burglar broke in through the front door and took a new computer, which she valued at $2,000.
She reported that crime, but to no avail. To date, no arrests have been made in the case and her computer has not been returned, Holloway said.
“It’s just devastating for a place that you can go without any question or any problem, get a meal, sit down and be comfortable … to think that someone would burglarize or take advantage of that place is beyond my wildest immigration,” Holloway said of the Soup Bowl theft. “Our prayers go out to anyone who would take bread or food out of the mouths of people who have nowhere else to go.”
Contact staff writer Laura Johnson at 256-235-3544.
Anyone who wants to donate to the kitchen can send a check to P.O. Box 2072, Anniston, AL 36202. Checks should be made out to The Anniston Soup Bowl.