They come every day to Alexandria’s ALIVE (Alexandrians Involved Ecumenically) food pantry: The city’s most vulnerable citizens, its poor, its downtrodden, or residents whose allocation of Food Stamps has run out.
At some point in March, someone else paid ALIVE’s food storage warehouse a visit: A cowardly thief who made off with 18 cases of canned goods, worth an estimated $2,500, leaving nothing but empty boxes once containing premium cans of peanut butter and meat products littering the floor.
Alexandria Police are investigating the theft, but there were no cameras in the warehouse off Wheeler Avenue, and ALIVE officials are asking that there be no fingerprinting of boxes because they may have been handled by multiple volunteers. The cowardly crooks left behind less valuable items such as boxes of refried beans and vegetables.
“One thousand pounds of canned goods is an awful lot of food,” said ALIVE’s president Gerry Hebert, an Old Town attorney. “It’s so unfathomable to me why someone would steal from the poor like this I can’t even come up with a motive.”
The City of Alexandria lends ALIVE use of half of the 1000-square foot warehouse off Duke Street to ALIVE, a non-profit organization started in 1969. The organization delivers food to about 12,000 needy people each year.
The stolen boxes of food were collected by Boy Scouts, mail carriers and churchgoers and from a drive conducted in November at the group’s Turkey Trot in Del Ray. “We typically give away 30 bags of food a day to people who are well below the poverty line or who’ve expended their food stamps by the last week of the month,” Hebert said. “We don’t ask questions.”
ALIVE has recently seen a 30 to 40 percent spike in food requests over last year, Hebert said. “There are more people who are slipping through the cracks,” he said. “We try and get people back on their feet so they can work on their own.”
The thief (or thieves) entered the facility’s locked garage door and hopped a tall wire fence separating a part of the room which stores benches for the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. “We suspect someone came in, cherry picked the food and tossed it over the fence,” he said.
When word spread of the theft, ALIVE’s office was inundated with calls from people all over the area asking how to contribute, with the group collecting about $1000 in donations on Friday alone. CURVES of Del Ray donated 500 pounds of canned goods on Friday, and food drives over the weekend at Trinity Methodist Church, First Christian Church and Food Matters in Cameron Station (which Hebert owns), produced hundreds of pounds more in donated goods.
“It’s been a generous outpouring of support,” he said.