A thief has made it harder for a Cheektowaga food pantry to help families in need this holiday season.
Someone stole the catalytic converters off the bottom of Resurrection Life Food Pantry's delivery truck last Friday night while it was parked outside the pantry, according to the organization.
That means the 18-foot box truck – that the group has nicknamed Samson – has been off the road awaiting repairs during the busiest time of the year for the pantry, said director Kim Reynolds.
"We rely on that truck," Reynolds said. "That's how we take care of our community, especially our seniors."
The theft was among about a half-dozen similar incidents over a one- or two-night period in the southern portion of the town, according to Cheektowaga police. The vehicle parts are usually taken and sold at scrapyards, Cheektowaga Assistant Police Chief Michael Sliwinski said.
Police don't believe the pantry was targeted. In these types of thefts, the assailants usually act under the cover of darkness and hit areas that are at least somewhat secluded, he said.
The pantry, which is part of Resurrection Life, a nondenominational church on Old Union Road, is among the area's largest, feeding close to 1,000 families each week, Reynolds said.
The truck is used to pick up donations and to deliver groceries to five facilities for low-income seniors, as well as to about 200 veterans "in crisis," through the Health Care for Homeless Veterans program.
More than 140 pantry volunteers help deliver food to individuals and families in the 14225 and 14227 ZIP codes. The pantry's work is also supported by more than 20 corporate partners.
And the need in the community has been increasing. Last month, the pantry delivered to 42 families it hadn't delivered to before, Reynolds said.
The truck, which got its Biblically inspired name "because he's strong and mighty," was purchased for the pantry by an anonymous donor about 18 months ago.
Now, Samson's sitting at a repair shop as mechanics await the delivery of specially ordered parts. In the meantime, many pantry volunteers have stepped up, making use of pickups for the time being.
"We have great volunteers," Reynolds said.
Truck repairs are estimated at between $2,000 and $4,000, and the pantry expects the costs will be covered under insurance.
Reynolds said that while, to the thief, it may have just been some truck parts, what happened hurts more than the pantry itself.
"They're actually impacting almost 1,000 families," she said.