The congregation of a Central Bridge church is extending an offer of help to the vandals who trashed it from the inside out-and walked away with less than $200.
Police are investigating the break-in at the Schoharie Valley Ward for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints-the Mormons-that happened sometime overnight January 26-27.
Rafael Antillon, the church's bishop, said the damage was discovered at about 6am that Monday by one of the congregation's teachers; he was already on his way and arrived shortly afterwards.
"There was just so much destruction," Bishop Antillon said. "And for so little money..."
Based on the amount of damage-cabinets broken into, doors destroyed--Bishop Antillon said it looks like the vandals spent quite a bit of time inside, looking for anything of value.
He estimates the total damage to be about $18,000.
"From the looks of things, they must have been very frustrated," he said. "Just about everything that was locked, they busted open."
In one cabinet, he said, there was nothing but a jar of beads for kids' crafts. That was smashed against the wall and floor.
Probably the biggest loss to the congregation, Bishop Antillon said, was the $50 taken from the Scout Troop's closet, money the boys had raised through fundraising for things like camp.
"We hope you put it to good use-food, perhaps, and not drugs," he writes in a letter to the editor in this week's Times-Journal. "Obviously, you needed it more than the boys."
Because of the extent of the damage, Bishop Antillon said police dusted the scene for fingerprints and then released the building back to the congregation so they could begin cleanup and repairs.
As bad as it was, he said, the damage could have been much worse, and the congregation is reaching out to the vandals, hoping to keep them from breaking into another church-or homes.
"I know a lot of people are hurting," Bishop Antillon said. "Church is there to help people. If they need help, we'll try to help them. If they need food, or a job, we'll try to help them any way we can."
The congregation is also inviting the vandals back-any Sunday, from 9am-noon-when they're there.
"Perhaps if we show them some humanity, we'll keep this from happening again," Bishop Antillon added.