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Frank Gray

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Frank Gray | The Journal Gazette
Jaime Flores, pastor at Emanuel Baptist Church, stands where the church’s A/C unit used to be.

Churches not exempt from being ripped off

Thieves aren’t too picky about whom they steal from.

Take the Emanuel Baptist Church in the 1300 block of Winter Street.

Emanuel Baptist actually started in another church several miles away, but about two years ago it had accumulated enough money to buy an old church building and have a home of its own.

But times are tight at the only Spanish-speaking Baptist church in town. Many of the parishioners are unemployed, and even the pastor, Jaime Flores, has to hold a second job on the side to get by.

So the last thing the church needs is to get ripped off.

But a few days ago someone pulled into a parking area between the church and Brooks Bar-B-Que, cut the wires to the church’s air-conditioning unit and cut off perhaps 20 feet of copper pipe that connected the unit to the interior and took off with everything.

Whoever took the air conditioner also took a chain-link gate at the back of the church’s lot. The gate was about 18 feet long.

So all the recycling places in town might want to make a note of it if someone shows up with a 7-ton Goodman central air unit about 4 years old and a couple of pieces of gate.

The church has insurance, Flores says, but it pays only depreciated value on losses, plus the church has to pay a deductible, which means the church, even if it files a claim, will get little if any compensation for the theft.

One air-conditioning contractor offered an estimate and even proposed putting a new one in a spot where thieves would have a hard time getting to it. “People will steal whatever they can,” Flores says he was told by the contractor.

For now, though, Flores says, the church really can’t afford to replace the unit. There is a lot of unemployment in the congregation, and some even rely on the church for food.

“Praise God we found the money for the building,” Flores said, but they don’t have the money for a new air-conditioning unit right now.

It’s actually the second time there has been a theft at the church. Tools were stolen from the truck of someone who had come to the church from work to attend a prayer meeting.

“I was very angry” when he first discovered the air-conditioner theft, Flores said. It left the church hot inside, particularly the upstairs room where the children have Sunday school. “But later I said I’m not going to let it get me down.”

Flores just thinks it is sad that not even a church is safe from thieves.

So Flores is going to do what he can, to spread word about what happened. He hopes spreading word will raise awareness in the neighborhood and people will keep their eyes open for thieves ripping off their neighbors.

“If you hear something, you can call the police.”

And once again, if you’re in the recycling business, that was a 7-ton Goodman air-conditioning unit about 4 years old.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him at twitter.com (@FrankGrayJG).

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