Christmas is supposed to be a time of giving — and a time especially when we’re reminded to help the poor. So it no doubt came as a rather large shock when a local church discovered some Grinch has been pilfering its “poor boxes.”
St. John Neumann Church, 2900 E. Main St., has the boxes placed in four separate locations around its building where its 3,000 or so parishioners can anonymously drop cash or gift cards specifically to help out the church’s needy. The boxes are locked.
In past years, donations have tallied in the hundreds to thousands of dollars during the holiday season, according to the report made at 1:25 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, 2013 to St. Charles police.
An alert office manager told police that giving had dropped off this year and suspected someone might be stealing. So she left $6 in one of the boxes to see what would happen. On Monday, several days later, she discovered that cash had been taken. This convinced the office manager the donations were being stolen.
In the meantime, a person stopped by the church Saturday, Dec. 7, to drop off at the reception area of St. John Neumann Church’s main office a $125 Wal-Mart gift card for one of the church’s needy members. The gift card had gone missing by Monday.
The church cannot say how much has been pilfered so far — the thefts have occurred before the contents of the poor boxes had been collected and counted.
A police officer inspected all the poor boxes but could find no signs of tampering — no indications that the locks had been picked, and no indications that someone had inserted something into the boxes’ slots to “fish out” the contents.
The office manager told police only she and one other employee have keys for the boxes, and that they had been working together for the past month to determine whether or not someone was stealing from them. However, she told police, the poor boxes and keys for them have been around for years, and there might be more keys out there that are no longer documented.
Police advised the church to use another method for collecting donations to the poor, and to consider a security system to monitor the church entrances and the donations areas.
The office manager also told police the church doors are unlocked during the day, and that from time to time she will find someone she doesn’t know walking around inside the building. Police advised that the church should be more safety-conscious, too — particularly at this time of year, when more donations are being made.