BLOOMFIELD — In a place where everything is free for the taking, someone still felt the need to steal.
Operators of the St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry are scratching their heads as to why anyone would break into the pantry and steal a large amount of food.
The pantry is open to the public free of charge.
“We give it away for free,” director Jeanne Cizon said. “All they had to do was walk through the door.”
Still, on Aug. 27 or 28, someone forced their way into the pantry after hours and emptied out entire coolers filled with meat, as well as hauling away boxes of noodles, breakfast cereal, tacos and other food.
In all, the thief or thieves got away with $800 or more worth of food.
The incident has left St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry temporarily under-stocked — and struggling to meet the needs of its clients.
“It’s a pretty cold-hearted person who would do that,” volunteer Bill Steinhoff said.
The pantry is open to the public three days a week, and its serves about 250 people a week from throughout the Bloomfield area.
Client Gaby Farkaschek of Genoa City said she visits every week or two, whenever money gets tight.
Farkaschek said she moved from Chicago to find a small Wisconsin community where she could escape crime and misery. She was shocked to hear about the food pantry break-in.
“It’s so upsetting,” she said. “This is such a good place.”
Bloomfield police are investigating the burglary, but have not yet reported identifying any suspects.
Police Chief Lloyd Cole could not be reached for comment.
Located at N1238 Park Road adjacent to Bloomfield Tire & Auto, the food pantry was started by Steinhoff’s wife, Sandy Steinhoff. Before she died of cancer in 2015, Sandy made her husband and friend Cizon promise to keep the pantry going.
A car show is held every summer to raise money.
The pantry originally was located at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. But after the church closed about 10 years ago, the pantry found a new home on Park Road. The owners of Bloomfield Tire & Auto agreed to donate space by retrofitting unused auto-repair bays.
There, clients of St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry are welcome every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to take what they need.
Al Janiec, owner of Bloomfield Tire & Auto, said the arrangement has worked well, and has performed a valuable community service for those who might otherwise go hungry.
Janiec said he was flabbergasted when he heard about the burglary.
“I was pretty disgusted, actually,” he said. “Why are you stealing from the poor?”
Volunteers on Aug. 27 had just stocked the food pantry with a fresh inventory of goods provided by an Elkhorn food pantry — one of several suppliers for the Bloomfield operation. At about 5 p.m., the volunteers finished up, locked the door and went home.
The next day, volunteer June Kosior opened the pantry as usual, and found the place pretty well cleaned out. Someone had forced their way through the locked door.
Kosior said she broke down in tears when clients started arriving and there was not enough food to help everybody.
Those associated with the food pantry are perplexed to think that someone would burglarize a nonprofit food pantry where everything is free.
“We can’t even wrap our brains around it,” Cizon said.
Said Kosior: “I’ve met a lot of people who’ve done a lot of low things in their lives. But not this low.”
Cizon hopes that reporting the break-in to the public will not only generate tips about possible suspects, but also will attract donations to help the pantry resupply its inventory.
The true victims of the burglary, she said, are the people who rely on St. Mary’s Memorial Food Pantry to keep themselves and their families healthy.
“It’s just very disheartening,” she said.
Bloomfield Tire & Auto is considering new security measures to guard against such thievery in the future.
Steinhoff said he believes in karma, and he is confident that whoever is responsible for robbing the food pantry will get what is coming to them sooner or later.
For now, he is just saddened that even a nonprofit community service is not safe from being victimized.
“That’s what disappoints me about society,” he said. “Everybody thinks, ‘What’s in it for me?’”