Crooks steal van used to feed hungry

The van used by a Hayward food pantry to pick up donations every day was stolen in a burglary over the weekend.

The white van was missing when staff arrived at the South Hayward Parish at 27287 Patrick Ave. Monday morning. Someone broke in to the parish between 4 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday, parish executive director Betty DeForest said.

Tuesday morning, enough volunteers with pickup trucks showed up to keep the pantry running, and while many plan on coming back, DeForest said she fears that arrangement isn’t sustainable.

The parish serves food to about 100 families a day, four days a week, amounting to about 2,200 meals every week, DeForest said. The interfaith parish, which has been operating for about 50 years, also provides other drop-in services for homeless people, putting them in touch with needed services, offering showers and even free GED classes.

The thieves probably broke in on Sunday night, DeForest said, not only stealing the keys to the van but also cash that was set aside to buy books for GED students and about 20 bus passes to be distributed to homeless people for help getting to job interviews and doctor’s appointments.

DeForest said:

“We’re not talking about an enormous cash loss, but it hurts people.”

Hayward police Sgt. Ryan Cantrell said that the department is concentrating on finding the missing van and then potentially using fingerprints to track down the thieves. But without the van, he said investigators so far have few leads.

The van was described as a white 2008 Dodge Sprinter 3 with a dent in the passenger door and California license plate number 8M86059.

DeForest said:

“That’s the most important thing in the world to us and it’s gone.”

Without the van, the parish is looking for donations and help in recouping its loss. Donations can be directed to the parish at 27287 Patrick Ave., Hayward by mail, or other arrangements can be made by calling (510) 785-3663, DeForest said. Anyone who spots the van or has information about the burglary has been asked to call Hayward police at (510) 293-7000.