SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (KTVU) - In the North Bay, the Salvation Army is reeling from a break-in. A mobile kitchen that has served thousands of people during times of distress was vandalized and stripped of its equipment.
The emergency canteen is a workhorse in times of disaster, but all it took was one hour and an open gate.
"We cleaned up and re-stocked some of our stuff already," Lt. Larry Carmichael, showing KTVU the 20 foot truck parked at the San Rafael Salvation Army Corp on Mission Avenue.
When the burglary was discovered Wednesday about 7 am, the cupboards and drawers had been emptied and everything thrown to the floor.
"We did have a couple of stock pots left behind, " said Carmichael, "and they left some coffee."
But dozens of pots, warming pans, serving trays, grills, and utensils were carted away by someone who scaled the front of the rig.
"Once they got on top, they took the skylight vent and just destroyed it," said Carmichael, showing the mangled frame on the vent, where the thief entered.
Some oversized canned goods were also left behind, in favor of energy bars.
"They took the grab and go type snacks, the protein bars, the granola bars, fruit snacks," elaborated Carmichael.
Those munchies are used to tide people over, as they wait for a hot meal from the food truck, usually their first during fire, flood, or other evacuation.
The van, with a crew of fifteen, served 17,000 meals over six days during Sonoma County's October firestorm.
If that call came now?
"The best we can do with this is go out, serve them a cup of coffee and give them a smile and a hug, and that doesn't really meet the need," conceded Carmichael.
Police took a report and talked to neighbors, but it doesn't appear anyone saw anything.
There are cameras on the property but they are trained on the thrift store, not the parking lot, so that may change going forward.
"Most security breakdowns tend to be the simple things," observed Carmichael.
And this crime of opportunity was as simple as can be.
The recycling company that came at 6 am Wednesday failed to lock- or even close- the metal gate behind them.
"We're glad about their honesty and accept their apology and move forward from there right?" said Carmichael.
But that won't be easy or cheap, because the commercial grade, restaurant quality supplies are special-order and expensive.
And since it isn't the Army way to stockpile surplus, fundraising is underway to restore the mobile kitchen.
It's been on the road for 20 years, ready to respond to any misfortune.
"It's an interesting place to be on this side of the table, to be the one saying, wow we've lost !", admitted Carmichel, " but we'll get to work and solve this."
Donations to the Salvation Army can be designated "San Rafael Canteen" to help replace the emergency supplies.