Valley Outreach recovers items stolen over weekend

Valley Outreach staff members pose with a display to highlight hunger in the area during the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign. The display was stolen over the weekend, according to Valley Outreach. (Submitted photo)
An orange table and blue chairs that were part of a promotional display in front of Valley Outreach were recovered after being taken the weekend of March 4-5. They once again adorn the Stillwater nonprofit’s lawn, but this time they’re chained up. Pictured are Valley Outreach staff with the display. (Submitted photo)

The story of a theft from a Stillwater nonprofit came to a happy conclusion this week, after a stolen promotional display was found and returned to Valley Outreach.

Over the weekend of March 4-5 a bright orange table and four blue chairs were taken from Valley Outreach’s front lawn. The pieces were of the organization’s Feed a Family effort, which is part of the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign. Valley Outreach’s original display lasted only five days.

“This is probably a prank, and I am so disappointed it happened,” said Valley Outreach Executive Director Tracy Maki March 6. “We had the table and chairs, along with our Feed a Family banner, to bring attention to often hidden issues in the suburbs — poverty and hunger. Our messaging is ‘This table should not be empty,’ and with Feed a Family as our call to action, we want you to think about what it takes to feed your own family. The personal connection is important. With that, we can create a welcoming place for everyone at our larger community table.”

Only five days before the theft, Valley Outreach put the display up and had a team picture taken at the table as drivers honked their horns as they passed.

“I doubt the perpetrators needed an orange table and blue chairs,” Maki said. “And what an awkward heist. This was not a small table — it could fit six chairs around it. Somebody thought about this, and had two to three people plus a vehicle large enough to haul it all off.”

It wasn’t the first time someone has stolen a promotional display. During October the past two years, Valley Outreach has strung up a clothes line of socks and underwear to encourage donations to its clothing closet for “Undie Sunday” and “Undie Week.” The first year, socks and underwear were stolen from the display.

“We’re not trying to be cute for the heck of it,” Maki said. “We work hard to highlight that not everyone is doing OK. More surveys and studies show an increase in suburban poverty and we are not immune to the trends.”

This week’s theft highlighted community support for the organization, however. Stillwater resident Katie Friend donated a table and chairs to Valley Outreach after she saw the theft reported by The Gazette online.

Then the organization received a tip that someone had seen the furniture outdoors, and police retrieved it.

“The person who had it … said there was a free sign on it, so they took it,” Maki said. “There was no free sign. … But in the ends, it ends well!”

Once again the display adorns the nonprofit’s lawn — this time secured with cables and a padlock.

The statewide Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign runs through the end of the month and is an effort to keep 300 food shelves across Minnesota stocked throughout the year. Valley Outreach’s effort is branded locally as Feed a Family. Info: valleyoutreachmn.org/march_food_share.aspx

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]