Thieves steal Christmas food parcels

SICKENED: Major Sharen Furlong in the church's empty food store with some of the few tins left behind by thieves. (d615c249)
SICKENED: Major Sharen Furlong in the church's empty food store with some of the few tins left behind by thieves. (d615c249)

HUNDREDS of tins of food donated by schoolchildren for needy families at Christmas has been stolen from a church.

Thieves broke into a storage room at Heckmondwike Salvation Army and stole 12 boxes full of tins which the church was collecting to distribute to elderly people and struggling families over the festive season.

Major Sharen Furlong, from the church, said she was sickened by the theft, which was discovered on Monday.

She said: “When I went to get the tins out, I found about 300 to 400 tins had been stolen.

“At Christmas we distribute food parcels to elderly people, and toy and food parcels to families in need. Last year we helped 50 families.

“Most of the tins were donated by pupils at Leeside School who collected them at their harvest festival. To say I am sickened is an understatement. We are gutted.”

Major Furlong said the church had been targeted repeatedly by thieves and vandals over the past few months.

Air rifles had been fired at windows; during recent building works thieves smashed through gates to steal a dumper truck; and last weekend the pre-school play equipment store was broken into and the skip was overturned, with rubbish left strewn around the car park.

Major Furlong said: “The callous thieves who took this food are not simply depriving the Salvation Army. They are hurting the very people who need our help the most. I am very distressed and very sad by what has happened. It is a cruel thing to do.

“In these difficult days when there is so much economic and financial struggle, we are regularly asked to supply food parcels to those in need. This year the requests for help are ever increasing. What has happened makes our work even more difficult.”

Major Furlong is appealing for help from readers and shops to help replace the stolen tins.

Donations can be dropped off at the Salvation Army, Barrack Street, Heckmondwike, or contact Major Furlong on 01924 402990.

Insp Tim Holland from Spen NPT said: “Crimes such as this make me angry. The offenders are attacking a charity that is helping some of the most unfortunate people in society.

“These people struggle to just get by and at a critical time of year when the weather is getting colder, and on the run up to Christmas it is deplorable.

“I urge anyone who knows or suspects someone of committing this crime to contact the police immediately.”

Contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.