Video released of van stolen from Toni’s Kitchen in Montclair
By ERIN ROLL
Toni’s Kitchen is appealing to the public for help after its delivery van was stolen earlier this week.
According to the Montclair Police Department, a man went to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church on South Fullerton Avenue on Monday. The man went into the church, took a set of keys and stole the white Ford Transit Connect van from the back parking lot.
The church has a video camera set up in the parking lot.
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Toni’s Kitchen is the food ministry of St. Luke’s. The kitchen’s services include an on-site soup kitchen and a food pantry that serves area families in need.
Police described the suspect as being a white male with dark hair between 25 and 35 years of age. At the time of the incident, the man was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with red markings, black pants and white sneakers. Anyone with information about the theft is encouraged to call the Montclair Police Department at 973-744-1234.
The van has Toni’s Kitchen markings, including a sunshine logo with “Summer Love Feeds Kids” on the side of the van and the Toni’s Kitchen stewpot logo on the doors.
Security video provided by Toni’s Kitchen shows the man going into the church by way of the back entrance, near where the food ministry is located. A short time later, the man comes back out into the parking lot and heads to the van. After a moment, the van pulls out of the parking lot and heads east on Union Street.
Toni’s Kitchen also reported that an unspecified amount of money, in the form of cash and checks, had been stolen as well.
The kitchen said in a press release on Friday that the van theft was “a major disruption” for the kitchen’s operations, since the van is used to deliver meals to several hundred families each week. The kitchen said that the van had been donated to Toni’s Kitchen in 2014, and had allowed the kitchen to double its outreach services.
“The van keeps us going,” Anne Mernin, the director of Toni’s Kitchen, said in a statement released on Friday. “It allows us to take in food donations and shops and turn that surplus food into healthy meals for our soup kitchen and outreach programs. It is busy seven days a week and is a hard working member of our [Toni’s Kitchen] family.”
Mernin said on Friday that Toni's Kitchen was renting a van until its regular van was found. "The way that it's impacting us the most is that we have to hire a driver," she said. Usually, she said, volunteers drive the Toni's Kitchen van, so hiring a driver for the rental van has been rather expensive.
As of Friday, she said that there had been no word yet from the police. "But we're hoping [the stolen van will] be recovered soon," she said.
Toni's Kitchen put an announcement on its Facebook page on Saturday saying that it was accepting donations to help defray the van rental costs. Donations may be made through the kitchen's website.