Thieves broke into a Sacramento, Calif., church last week and stole Thanksgiving food that the congregation intended to give to those in need, but the giveaway became even bigger than planned after the surrounding community rallied to support the church.
Charlotte Barbee, the youth pastor at Christ Temple Apostolic Church, says a church deacon discovered Friday morning that the donated food items, including frozen turkeys, had been taken. The thieves broke into the church's gymnasium and ransacked the attached kitchen.
Barbee, who works at UC Davis Medical Center, says she told her coworkers what had happened and within half an hour people began donating money to replenish the supply of food. She also posted a message to Facebook asking for prayer and support, and by Friday evening she had already received several calls from different media outlets.
The food that was stolen was enough to provide approximately 20 families with a complete Thanksgiving dinner, Barbee says, but members of the community, many of them strangers, have responded by donating money and food enough to feed more than 40 families.
"It's really overwhelming," she said Monday. "I actually sat at my job today and just kind of cried, because I never ever expected the type of response we're getting."
The church distributed the Thanksgiving baskets on Tuesday.
Christ Temple Apostolic Church, which has been in existence for more than 98 years, is attended by between 100 and 150 people, says Barbee. Each year the church provides those in need with food baskets for Thanksgiving and Christmas. The church also opens its gym to local children and offers shelter to the homeless several nights each year.
But the church has been burdened with financial hardships since the economic downturn began several years ago. Some members lost their jobs, Barbee says, and giving decreased. The church laid off its entire staff about two years ago, and now everyone who works there – the pastor included – does so on a voluntary basis.
In addition, about half of the building cannot be used because the roof is in disrepair, though that will hopefully change soon. Barbee says a Texas-based philanthropic organization has contacted the church and provided it with a grant application that could result in the roof being fixed.
Barbee says she believes God "orchestrated" the events that have been happening at her church. Initially she was devastated by news of the robbery, but she now says "it's like a miracle just unfolding before our eyes."