Toni’s Kitchen van recovered in Newark
By ERIN ROLL
The van stolen from Toni’s Kitchen last week has been found. The suspect who allegedly walked into St. Luke's Church and stole the keys to the van as well as cash and checks, is still at large.
Essex County Sheriff’s Office found the missing Ford Transit Connect van on 2nd Street near Central Avenue in Newark, said Montclair Police Lt. David O’Dowd on Wednesday, May 2.
Toni’s Kitchen is the food ministry of St. Luke’s, providing soup kitchen and food pantry services to clients in need in the area.
The theft took place on the afternoon of April 23. Security video from Toni’s Kitchen showed an unidentified male entering St. Luke’s Church, near the entrance to Toni’s Kitchen, and coming back outside a few minutes later. Then the man entered the Toni’s Kitchen van, which was parked in the parking lot, and drove away on Union Street.
Anne Mernin, the director of Toni's Kitchen, said May 2 that she had gotten a call the evening before that the van had been located. “I’m thrilled. I’m very attached to the van, and I was really, really hoping that it would be found,” Mernin said.
The van was back at Toni’s Kitchen by Thursday evening after being released from the impound lot. The van was in good condition, according to a statement that the kitchen released that day. However, the van needed to be cleaned, and Mernin said that the van’s locks needed to be re-coded, since the thief apparently still has the keys. She also said the van needed to be taken to a mechanic for a tune-up since one of the dashboard lights was on.
The suspect seen in the video is described as a white male with dark hair, between 25 and 35 years of age. At the time of the theft he was wearing a black sweatshirt with red markings, black pants and white sneakers. O’Dowd said May 2 that he did not have any information regarding the suspect.
Toni’s Kitchen is the food ministry of St. Luke’s, providing soup kitchen and food pantry services to clients in need in the area. In 2017, the kitchen provided 138,000 meals to clients in need.
The kitchen relies on the van to make deliveries and to collect donations. In a statement sent to the public, the kitchen said that the van had enabled the kitchen to double its client outreach.
“We’ve really come to understand how important the van is to this busy food ministry,” Rev. John Mennell, the pastor of St. Luke’s Church, said in the Toni’s Kitchen statement.
The kitchen extended its thanks to the community for its support. “A very special thanks to Kerry Verrone and the Montclair Kimberley Academy for swiftly arranging to cover some key food pickups. We are tremendously grateful for all the warm support we have received from our community,” the statement said.