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Salvation Army Lt. Jeanette Jensen looks into the once-full freezers at the Salvation Army food pantry that are now empty as the result of a theft sometime between Sunday or early morning Monday at the pantry at 219 First Ave.

Freezers formerly stocked with meat are sitting empty this week at the Salvation Army’s food pantry.

And although demand has risen in the area for food assistance, the bare coolers are not a result of providing help to needy residents. Instead, the Salvation Army is left with a couple of fish filets after being the victim of a theft that resulted in more than $800 worth of meat being stolen, according to a Clinton Police Department report.

Salvation Army Lt. Jeanette Jensen said resources were getting low before this happened, and things are beginning to look desperate.

“This hurts,” Jensen said. “This is definitely a punch in the gut.”

“Our goal is to help people who need it. We have had to ration recently and because (meat) was taken from us, a lot more people than the Salvation Army will suffer.”

Police reported $600 worth of New York strip steaks and $210 of ground beef were stolen from the facility, 219 First Ave., either Sunday or early Monday. The shed housing the freezer sustained $100 worth of damage, while the freezer suffered $300 of damage. The stolen goods were earmarked for the emergency food pantry and the upcoming youth program. The investigation is continuing and no other information has been released.

 “We were already low on funding and the pantry was dwindling, but now with the theft, we have to be even more frugal with how to help,” Jensen said.

The Salvation Army’s pantry covers residents north of Fifth Avenue South in Clinton County, while the Associate Benevolent Society covers residents south of Fifth Avenue South in Clinton County.

Associate Benevolent Society Director Paula Mallory said although donations have been pretty good, demand is much higher.

“We’ve got a pretty good group of people that donate to us,” Mallory said. “But meat-wise, the food bank doesn’t have the meat for like 14 cents a pound, so we have to buy hamburger at $2.77 per pound. When you’re doing pantries for 86 families, it gets real expensive.”

The Benevolent Society used to service 35 families per month, but last year the number reached 60, and this year, that number has ballooned to more than 80. Mallory said if the Salvation Army is unable to serve, then the Benevolent Society can help residents that are affected by the Salvation Army’s limited meat supply.

Salvation Army Lt. Shane Jensen and Jeanette are still trying to work through how much insurance will cover, but Shane said the pantry will remain open.

“Even though our financial situation is tight and even though we may not have the means to just run out to the store and replace what was stolen, we believe that God has a great plan for the Salvation Army in Clinton, and all we’re asked to do is remain faithful,” Shane said. “God will help us get through this time. No thief can take that away.”

To make a donation to the Salvation Army, call 242-4502. To contribute to the Benevolent Society, call 243-4148.