Church sadden by theft of van used to help feed the hungry

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - A church van used for helping St. Louisans in need has been stolen.  Surveillance video may help St. Trinity Lutheran Church at Vermont & Koeln in South St. Louis, get its van back.

The van, a silver, 2008 Ford, 15 passenger van, matters to a lot more people than just the 70 or so members of the congregation.

It’s the second time the church has had a van stolen in the past 14 months.

“Came to church about 8 o’clock (Sunday morning) and recognized it was gone,” said Pastor David Lewis.

After realizing no one had borrowed the van, church staff looked at surveillance video and noticed a man repeatedly walking around that van and the church’s mini-van (which was stolen last summer) in the parking lot, around 1:30 Sunday morning.

Neither the nearby security camera nor the “Jesus loves you” sign in the window next to the thief seemed to give him pause.

“(He) came and scouted it out earlier … and came back about 5:00,” Lewis said.

When he returned, he had a backpack full of tools and stole the big van.

St. Trinity occasionally uses it to stock its vital food pantry, which serves about 1,000 people every month.

The church also has a large volunteer corps of about 150 people. They depend upon the van.

“Mostly we used it a lot this summer.  We have teams of young people coming from around the country and here in the city.  They spend a week with us doing mission service projects, service trips,” Lewis said.

Still, church members have plenty of reasons to believe things will work out, including the quick return of the mini-van, last summer.

“We did find that one about mile from here…we love how engaged our neighborhood is.  So, people are just kind of watching keeping an eye out. We’re just trying to be good neighbors.  It never hurts that we share that news.  You never know who’s seen what,” Lewis said.

The church bought the van for about $15,000 thanks to a grant from the St. Louis Lutheran Foundation, so it’d be great to get it back.