AKRON, Ohio — Good Neighbors food pantry in Akron works to live up to its name, supporting about 750 families every month through its meal distribution.
However, the pantry's volunteers were in for a shock when they learned their van, used for eight years to transport thousands of pounds of food, had been stolen.
On Saturday around noon, volunteer general manager George Camilletti arrived at the pantry to do some inventory work. He found the gate to the driveway was unlocked and didn't think anything of it, but as he continued towards the door, he realized the pantry's van — typically parked underneath a carport next to the pantry — was gone.
"We have about eight people who have keys to the van, so my initial thoughts were somebody borrowed it and forgot to let us know," Camilletti said. "I spent the afternoon calling everybody I know about looking for the van.
"When I came back up I noticed — I didn't notice the first time — the chain on the gate had been cut with bolt cutters, and of course that was indicative that somebody stole it."
From there, the pantry team filed a police report and contacted their insurance company. The van, a 2008 white cargo van with "Good Neighbors" painted across the side, was nowhere to be found. Surrounding the area where the van is usually parked are multiple signs that read "food pantry."
"The first words that came to my mind I can't repeat," Camilletti told 3News. "Somebody who obviously doesn't care about people in their neighborhood, people in their community."
The frustration is felt by not only volunteers, but those who use the food pantry as a resource. On Monday, Daniel Fifer visited the food pantry and was saddened by the news of the van.
It's just bad news that somebody has to do something like that to good people," he said.
The van is an important tool for the pantry, which is open four days a week to the public.
"Three to four days a week, we take that van to the food bank [for] pick up," Camilletti said. "It was rated to hold 3,800 pounds of food. We would fill it."
On Monday, Camilletti rented a U-Haul and a volunteer offered up his pickup truck for trips. Buying a new van, likely one that is already used, would be costly for the nonprofit.
"The big problem is the weight," Camilletti explained. "A lot of the new vans don’t carry much weight, and if we get a palette of vegetables, corn, it can easily weigh 3,000 pounds."
In the meantime, he says they will try to go to local auto dealerships in the hopes of finding a replacement option at a reasonable price. The food pantry is accepting leads on used vans for sale, as well as monetary donations towards buying a replacement.
The Akron Police Department told WKYC Monday that the van has not yet been recovered, and the case remains under investigation.