Thief takes van from MLT Concern for Neighbors Food Bank

The van used by the Mountlake Terrace-based Concern for Neighbors Food Bank to pick up donated food for those in need was stolen last weekend, but volunteers have stepped in to ensure its business as usual until the vehicle is recovered.

Concern for Neighbors Executive Director Mike Begeman said Monday that the white 2007 Chevrolet Express 250 van was stolen at approximately 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27. Surveillance video from the property (see below) shows a masked subject wearing a backpack, blue jeans and what appears to be a dark vest run up to the vehicle and seemingly pick the lock before driving away less than 40 seconds later.

A volunteer who arrived to perform duties Sunday night first discovered the van, which is used five days a week to pick up donations from local grocery stores, was gone. The van has the organization’s name and phone number displayed on the rear quarter panels. At the time it was stolen, it contained no other goods or items of value, Begeman said.

This is the second time in less than a week that the food bank has been the victim of theft. On Feb. 23, the food bank office inside the Terrace View Presbyterian Church at 4700 228th St. S.W. was burglarized when the church was broken into. Acording to Begeman, the suspect used keys found inside the church to gain access to the food bank’s office, and computers and $2,500 in donated Safeway gift cards were stolen.

Because the burglar or burglars also had access to other keys while inside the office, including those for the van and warehouse, “we rekeyed everything by Wednesday and thought we were fairly secure,” he said

“It’s just a bit disappointing that there’s an organization here who’s just trying to help the community and we’re getting blocked by some people for unknown reasons,” Begeman said. He asks that those responsible consider their actions: “Think in your own mind what are you trying to do and perhaps feel a little remorse and give our van back.”

On Monday — two days after the van theft — Concern for Neighbors was faced with figuring out how to handle what is typically one of their busiest days of the week for picking up grocery donations. Begeman said several of the food bank’s volunteers “offered up their own vehicles, so we had four different people bring a variety of pickups, minivans and such.” Other organizations, including the Edmonds Food Bank and Calvary Fellowship Church in Mountlake Terrace, had also reached out to offer assistance, he said.

After the food bank published a post about the theft on social media, several residents also offered their vehicles and help for pickups and deliveries.

While he hopes the van is recovered soon “in some kind of reasonable shape,” Begeman said it will continue to be business as usual at the food bank. “We’re not going to be stopped by people who are stealing from us,” he said. “We’re going to still be open and helping everybody that we can.”

Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Pat Lowe said that anyone who sees the van or has information about its theft can call either 911 or the non-emergency phone number 425-407-3999.

— By Nathan Blackwell

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