Van stolen from church soup kitchen in New Jersey

MONTCLAIR N.J. — Despite having their van stolen, meal prep is underway in Toni’s Kitchen at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair.

The Ford Transit Connect delivery van has the church's name written on it, but that didn't stop a man from grabbing the keys from within the church and taking off down the street.

"I was broken hearted to think someone would steal from people who need so much," said Doris Spivey, a parishioner who stopped in the soup kitchen today to make a donation when she heard the news. "I brought a ham and a check, which won’t buy a van but will pay for a rental for a couple of days."

The church is renting a delivery van to bridge the gap, since they pick up food donations and prepare meals for the community 7 days a week.

"Everyone felt very violated. Everyone questioned, why would someone come into a soup kitchen and take something that is so important?" said Stacey Cooper, the kitchen manager at Toni’s Kitchen.

The TK van was donated to Toni’s Kitchen in 2014 by a local family and has allowed the kitchen to more than double its reach in the last few years.

“The van keeps us going,” said Anne Mernin, Director of Toni’s Kitchen. “It allows us to take in large food donations from local groceries and shops and turn that surplus food into healthy meals for our soup kitchen and outreach programs.

Church staff say a man shown on surveillance video came into the church last Monday at around 5 p.m. asking for money for a bus ticket.

On his way out, he allegedly took cash and checks from the collections box — donations from Sunday mass — and the keys to the van.

He is described as tall and light-skinned with brown hair. He is believed to be in his late 20s or early 30s. Anyone who recognizes him should call police.

"We look forward to continuing what we do," said Cooper. "We love what we do. So this is to be continued."