Back-to-school supplies, food stolen from Salvation Army

  • On Friday, just days before public school students returned to classrooms Monday, The Salvation Army Kona Corps discovered its headquarters on Kalani Street had been forcibly entered with the thief or thieves removing over $1,000 worth of school supplies and $3,000 worth of food and other supplies that would have went to assist low-income children and families in the community. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • On Friday, just days before public school students returned to classrooms Monday, The Salvation Army Kona Corps discovered its headquarters on Kalani Street had been forcibly entered with the thief or thieves removing over $1,000 worth of school supplies and $3,000 worth of food and other supplies that would have went to assist low-income children and families in the community. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • Keiki pick out backpacks during The Salvation Army Kona Corps's Back-to-School Supply Drive distribution event in August 2021. On Friday, just days before public school students returned to classrooms Monday, The Salvation Army Kona Corps discovered its headquarters on Kalani Street had been forcibly entered with the thief or thieves removing over $1,000 worth of school supplies and $3,000 worth of food and other supplies that would have went to assist low-income children and families in the community. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

The community has stepped up to replenish over $4,000 in school supplies and food stolen during a recent burglary of The Salvation Army Kona Corps.

On Friday, just days before public school students returned to classrooms Monday, the nonprofit discovered its headquarters on Kalani Street in Kailua-Kona had been forcibly entered with the thief or thieves removing over $1,000 worth of school supplies and $3,000 worth of food and other supplies that would have went to assist low-income children and families in the community. Police confirmed the break-in Monday but provided little additional detail.

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“We didn’t have video surveillance at the time, and moving forward, we are going to need to have one. But we’re working with the police right now,” said Capt. Raghel Santiago, Corps Officer. “When we discovered on Friday the break-in, we called the police right away and they came and did the investigation with us. So we are working with them.

“We haven’t heard any details yet about suspects or motives but we do know whoever broke in used a crowbar and used the crowbar inside there, which the police confiscated,” she continued.

Items taken during the break-in included back-to-school supplies, protein items for weekly food pantry distributions, toiletry items for kupuna, large food coolers used during the nonprofit’s annual Thanksgiving meal and other food distributions, and more. Damage to the building includes several broken doors and windows.

“We’re heartbroken — we were going to be assembling our final back-to-school supplies on Saturday and distribute the protein items during our food pantry on Tuesday…and now we will have to purchase replacement supplies,” said Santiago in a statement before speaking to the newspaper. “We are humbly asking our community for monetary donations so we can quickly meet the needs of our keiki, kupuna, and individuals who are so in need of these items. We also ask for prayers for those who were so desperate for food and back-to-school supplies that they felt a need to take them when we would have provided them had they simply asked.”

Since the call for help, the community has come forward to ensure keiki have the supplies they need and those who need assistance do not go hungry.

“We are seeing people coming in and calling, stopping by, asking how they can help, it’s been truly amazing. People are dropping off school supplies and monetary donations. Monetary donations are good because we can purchase what we need right away.”

For Beverly Fraser, who runs the nonprofit Malama I Na Keiki Hanai, which donates school supplies to foster children, news of the break-in was tragic, prompting her to help.

“There’s so many families now that are struggling with the cost of living being what it is. I don’t do a lot of work with them but when I heard it was school supplies taken, for kids that need some help and families that need help, it made me angry that someone would do that. And steal from organizations. So I just went up yesterday. There was another couple donating as well. I think the community will really rally behind them because they put out a necessary service,” she said.

Fraser donated around $600 in school supplies to help replenish what was taken.

“The money we used was for children in foster care but we had money left over,” she said. “So I kind of went and tried to choose some basic binders and backpacks and stuff. The idea of kids not having stuff makes me so mad. For the food pantry as well.”

For Santiago, the break-in was a cry for help.

“Whoever broke in and stole these things — they didn’t steal from us, they stole from the community. What makes me sad is they could’ve come to us and we would’ve helped them,” she said. “We would’ve helped them. We help everyone who comes to us.”

Monetary donations to assist the Kona corps is providing for the community can be made online at kona.salvationarmy.org.

“My husband and I, Captain Jose, we want to thank our community for caring and for still believing things can be replaced. We are all one. There’s so many people in our community and we become solidified when something tragic like this happens,” Santiago concluded.

Police ask anyone with information on the incident to call the department’s nonemergency line at (808) 935-3311 or email Officer Devon Manuel at Devon.Manuel@hawaiicounty.gov.