Vandals hit Sikeston food bank

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

SIKESTON, Mo. -- Ripped bags and boxes of food on the floor, scattered papers, graffiti and more vandalism was the scene at the Bootheel Food Bank's Sikeston location when Roger Woolsey, pantry manager, arrived at work Monday morning.

"This in the second time in a month," Woolsey said. "I really don't understand it."

A few weeks ago, the two buildings at the South Kingshighway location were broken into.

The first time the vandals struck, they destroyed the offices, according to Woolsey. "And this time, they even got into the food," he said, in addition to the offices.

About seven bags of food were demolished and thrown onto the floor -- for instance, boxes of cereal were opened and scattered. Also, canned drinks were taken from some bags, opened and then spilled on the floor or in other prepared bags of food.

Woolsey said it appeared the food items were only used to harm the building, and he didn't think there was any theft.

The damages, however, add up to thousands of dollars, Woolsey said.

"I'll have to redo those bags," he said. "And we'll have to shut down for a few days just to clean up."

The pantry was closed Monday, and Woolsey said he expects to be shut down through Thursday in order to clean. That means he also will not hand out sandwiches any of those days. "Most likely, Friday will be the first day to do it again," he said.

Woolsey asked residents to help patrol the area and report any suspicious activity. Those who broke in gained entry the first time by kicking in a window and door. Over the weekend, they gained entry by pulling apart the tin walls of the building.

"If this keeps happening, we will have to shut the pantry down," said Woolsey, adding that one more incident may be the breaking point. "We are a not-for-profit and can't afford to keep cleaning up. But I hope it doesn't get to that point."

The Sikeston location feeds approximately 700 families a month, he said. The damaged food hurts them most, Woolsey said.

After both incidents, the Sikeston Department of Public Safety was called to the scene. Officials made no comment about either break-in, which remain under investigation.

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