Community Impact: Church van stolen

Community Impact” explores how crime affects quality of life in our neighborhoods. Here, the recent theft of a church van hits New Bethel A.M.E. in Germantown.

If you would like to share your story, e-mail us at newsworks@whyy.org 

It’s not clear when it happened. But sometime between the first and second Sunday in December, someone stole one of two vans belonging to the New Bethel A.M.E. Church of Germantown.

“It could have been taken that [first] night,” said Pastor Maurice Hughes of the tan Econoline van the church has been parking in Rite Aid’s lot next door for nearly a decade. The Church is located at the corner of Germantown Ave. and Tulpehocken St.

While the vintage van wasn’t much to look at, it was vital to transporting about a dozen senior citizens and Sunday school students to the church each week.

Hughes said since the incident those congregants have largely stopped showing up to the Germantown Avenue locale. One of the church’s member’s has occasionally picked people up with his own car.

Hughes said he wasn’t surprised by the incident – the tires from one of the vans were stolen in the past.

His congregation wasn’t surprised either, he added.

“I think we’ve learned to take the bitter with the sweet,” said Hughes.

Still Hughes was somewhat troubled the theft didn’t provoke more shock and outrage. Years ago, he said, no one in the neighborhood would dream of stealing or damaging church property.

“Today there’s a different mindset,” said Hughes, who’s headed the 300-member congregation for more than 15 years.

New Bethel is in the process of negotiating a reimbursement figure with the insurance company. Hughes said he needs about $15,000 to replace the stolen vehicle, but doesn’t expect to see a settlement that large.

Church officials will meet early next week to discuss how to make up the difference.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.