$103 Robbery Cripples Church's Dinner Program for Homeless

(Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton)A woman looks at canned food items at the Food Bank For New York City Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem in New York December 21, 2010. The Food Bank For New York City has seen a major increase in the number of first-time visitors who now depend on free food to prepare their holiday dinner.

A new dinner program for the homeless run by the Rock of Refuge Pentecostal Church in Middletown, N.Y., was crippled last week after $103 went missing from the program's bank account.

Minister Tony Reyes told the RecordOnline, that he discovered the painful loss last Wednesday when he went to purchase new food containers and the church's debit card was rejected. He said he checked with Provident Bank, where the account was opened, and was told that "an unauthorized person" had used the debit card.

He said he reported the matter to the police and the bank is investigating, but he was forced to halt the dinner program until he is able to offset the missing money.

"It is sad," Reyes told the RecordOnline. "The people haven't been fed a whole week because of this."

Minister Reyes, who was once homeless himself, said he started the dinner program in June with the help of volunteers. He packs an average of 29 meals "consisting of chicken, a salad, and either rice and beans or pasta, plus a bottle of water — in disposable containers," and delivers them to the homeless on North Street and people who live in tents in the woods around Middletown.

The man of God says he also makes an effort to purchase clothes for the homeless whenever possible as well. His hope is that his food program will become a part of the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley and later expand to serve the homeless in Port Jervis, N.Y.

Reyes, who is originally from the Bronx in New York City, said he worked with the homeless at Camp La Guardia in Chester before it closed. He also distributed food for To God Be the Glory Food Pantry throughout the Hudson Valley.

The minister of biblical studies explained that many of the homeless he is trying to serve eat breakfast and lunch at the Guild of St. Margaret Soup Kitchen, but they don't have anything after that.

"They're hungry," Reyes said. "There's no program at all."

The Christian Post reached out to the Middletown police regarding the report on Wednesday and an officer who would only identify himself as Sergeant Kassel, said he could not verify the report right away.

The Rock of Refuge Pentecostal Church was also contacted by CP on Wednesday and a woman who answered the telephone promised to return the call with more information but did not follow-up in time for publication.

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