Ed Grisamore

Gris: After theft, money back in the jar

This is a story about taking someone’s money.

It has nothing to do with today being Tax Day.

The small, glass bowl didn’t have much cash in it, just a handful of Abe Lincolns and a few George Washingtons.

It wouldn’t have been enough to fill the gas tank of the car the guy got away in.

Two weeks ago, Jeanne Roddenberry and Genny Whitaker were selling raffle tickets outside the Wal-Mart on Zebulon Road. The last thing they expected was for a man to reach over and snatch the bowl they were using for collections.

That’s like stealing money out of the offering plate at church.

“At first, we thought he might be teasing us, and it was a joke,” Jeanne said.

Nope. The man disappeared in a trail of exhaust fumes. Fortunately, Genny quickly wrote down his tag number.

If and when he is apprehended, let’s hope the judge not only demands restitution but orders him to perform 500 hours of community service at Loaves & Fishes Ministry.

That might teach him the commandment “thou shalt not steal,” especially from a place where folks are able to seek shelter from the storms of life.

The money might not have seemed like much, except when we remember the miracle of the loaves and fishes Jesus used to feed the multitudes.

Last month, more than 3,000 services were rendered at the downtown ministry that provides meals, snacks, groceries, clothes, hygiene kits, shower facilities and identification cards. There also are 44 people living in its transitional housing.

Loaves & Fishes is no different than many of the other ministries that reach out to the city’s homeless and less fortunate. These are challenging times for nonprofits. They have to rely on raffles, bake sales, fish fries, thrift stores, silent auctions and other fundraisers to keep the doors open. They must lean heavily on volunteers and the outreach programs of local churches to keep the line moving.

So it is disheartening someone would take the money and run. That’s pretty low.

“A lot of nice people came up after it happened and made some donations to try and make up for it,” Jeanne said.

This is your cue to make a statement, too. Send a message to the cookie jar thieves of the world. Let them know the good folks have them outnumbered.

Contributions can be made to Loaves & Fishes by calling 741-1007 or dropping by the Jack Steppe Day Life Service Center at 651 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., or mailing donations to Loaves and Fishes Ministry of Macon Inc., P.O. Box 825, Macon, GA 31202. Online donations can be made at loavesandfishesministry.org.

There are still $10 tickets (three for $25) for Thursday’s 3 p.m. raffle. The first prize is $1,000, second prize is $300 and third prize is dinner for four at Mellow Mushroom Pizza.

Mary Alice Webb is a longtime volunteer and board member. She became involved with Loaves & Fishes through her church, St. Paul Episcopal.

Jack Steppe, who also was a member at St. Paul, helped her understand that people are people, regardless of their station in life, and they deserve to have their basic needs met. Steppe became director of Loaves & Fishes 20 years ago in 1995. He died in 2002.

“We try to empower them, not enable them, to teach them to help themselves,” Mary Alice said. “We’re not giving them designer shoes and T-bone steaks. We’re giving them the things most of us take for granted.”

Sometimes generational poverty shows up like a revolving door at Loaves & Fishes. It has been around the block. It lives on the streets.

Other times, situational poverty rears its head among the downtrodden.

“Some of them will tell you they’ve never been in this situation before,” Jeanne said. “They’re embarrassed, and it’s such a huge thing to walk in that door and say they need help.”

Contact Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.