Despite theft, Bootstraps Food Program Persists | News

Beverly — When thieves stole catalytic converters from a refrigerated Beverly Bootstraps truck in the middle of the night, he could have disrupted the agency’s food assistance program at a time when demand was soaring at record high.

But Bootstraps officials say its services will continue uninterrupted thanks to the influx of the community. In particular, Endicott College Food Services has offered to loan a refrigerated truck to Bootstraps to enable the agency to continue to pick up the thousands of pounds of food it distributes each week.

“It’s amazing,” Bootstraps’ food aid supervisor Beth Bahr said on Friday. “I’ve been coming back on phone calls all morning from people trying to help. The outpouring and support of the community has been such a beautiful and beautiful thing.”
The catalytic converter theft occurred around 4:30 a.m. Thursday, according to Bootstraps CEO Sue Gabriel. Gabriel said two men cut catalytic converters from the bottom of the truck when it was parked in the Potstraps parking lot on Park Street. She said the incident was captured by security cameras, and the video was handed over to the police.

Gabriel said the loss of the refrigerated van threatened Bootstraps’ food assistance program at a time when its food pantry is testing its highest demand in the agency’s 30-year history. The truck is used to pick up thousands of pounds of food per week at the Great Boston Food Bank in Boston and the Satellite location in Salem, as well as fresh produce in Chelsea, and bring it to the pantry in Bootstraps. The truck is also used to support mobile markets where Bootstraps go out to local apartment complexes and seniors’ apartments in Beverly.

It may take some time to replace the catalytic converters, Gabriel said. Thefts of under-vehicle emissions control devices are on the rise across the country due to an increase in the value of precious metals in devices that can be sold on the black market, according to a report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Beverly Police Chief John Lacher said police are reviewing videos from security cameras from nearby businesses and from MBTA cameras on nearby railroads. LeLacheur said Beverly hasn’t had many catalytic converter thefts but has recently received reports of two of them.

“I don’t know if people working in other areas of the state have started moving into this area, but it’s something we need to be aware of,” he said.

Bahra said that many people offered to help get food after hearing about the loss of the truck. But she said Bootstraps needs a refrigerated truck to handle the large food pallets. This is where Endicott College came in with its offer.

Bahra said she hopes that guests who visit the pantry when it opens on Monday morning will have everything they need.

“The timing of this is very unfortunate because we are now seeing record numbers coming from our food stocks,” she said. “But we want to make it smooth for our pantry guests and those who use our services. The show must go on.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2535, via email at [email protected], or on Twitter at @heardinbeverly.

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