A thief or thieves broke into the Lighthouse Mission headquarters on Montauk Highway in Bellport sometime over the weekend, smashed office furniture, stole cash and made off with gift cards set aside to buy toys for needy children, police said.
"They kind of roughed the place up," said Jim Ryan, pastor and president of Lighthouse, which operates a mobile food pantry serving about 3,000 meals a week in Coram, Lake Ronkonkoma, Port Jefferson Station and elsewhere in Suffolk County.
The break-in was reported at 10:37 a.m. Sunday and is still being investigated, Suffolk County police said.
"To steal from us, they must be pretty desperate," Ryan said.
The culprit or culprits broke into a safe and stole the $3 inside, took $500 in cash from a desk and made off with a few hundred dollars of donated gift cards from Toys 'R' Us and Walmart.
"It doesn't sound like a whole lot, but for any organization like us that relies on donations, it's a big deal," Ryan said.
This year Lighthouse adopted all three elementary schools in Bellport and any older siblings of children enrolled in the district.
Last year, the group served hundreds of parents and adopted only one school.
With the devastation brought on by superstorm Sandy and by serving three schools, Ryan thinks participation in the program will be immense.
But he remains confident they will help all those in need who ask.
"We're going to pray," Ryan said. "God has never let us down. We always meet the need somehow, even when it looks desperate and bleak."
He also had a message for those who broke in: "We forgive them."