Sometime during the evening of March 31, thieves stole a compressor for a walk-in freezer at the future location of Moveable Feast Lexington.
The compressor was behind the building at 476 Silver Maple Way, directly across Fifth Street from Shiloh Baptist Church. The building is being renovated.
Moveable Feast board president Tony Burgett said the thieves were not gentle or precise in removing the compressor, valued at $4,500. Paying the insurance deductible and having a new compressor installed was going to cost the charitable organization $7,000, he said.
Burgett didn't sound happy when he called.
But this is not another sad story about a non-profit getting slammed by unforeseen circumstances while struggling to survive. Although it could have been.
The burglary took place during Holy Week, a time of miracles. Burgett knows that now.
Police received an anonymous tip that the theft had occurred. Soon after, they notified the contractors working on the building. Because of the upcoming Easter weekend and folks taking time off, Burgett didn't learn immediately about the loss, he said.
Burgett knew the missing compressor represented not only an added expense, but also a delay in opening the new facility for Moveable Feast, which serves some 130 hot meals a day, five days a week, to HIV and AIDS patients and to those under hospice care.
Still, thanks to the calendar and the ineptitude of the burglars, the worst-case scenario did not pan out.
"The police found the compressor!" Burgett said in a voice message. "It was found in the back of an abandoned pick-up."
Apparently, the burglars put the compressor in a truck that they parked a block from the scene of the crime. There it sat for several days until police found it Friday after another anonymous call. Police took the compressor in a cruiser to police headquarters and impounded the truck.
"They knew how much we needed that compressor," Burgett said.
He didn't learn the lost had been found until he went to the police station to file a report about the incident on Monday. The best he can figure, the thieves must have "panicked and run," Burgett said.
According to Terry Mullins, director of Moveable Feast, "It was like an Easter miracle."
Reinstalling the freezer compressor won't set back the opening by much, Burgett said. It is scheduled for the end of April.
At that time, a lot of volunteers will be needed to clean and organize the new facility while the organization prepares and delivers meals as usual. Drivers and meal preparers are always needed. Tuesday, the menu included pulled pork barbecue, green beans, potato salad and a dessert.
Long-term, volunteers can help organize fund-raising events or with administrative responsibilities and pitch in whenever necessary. Call Mullins at (859) 252-2867 to volunteer.
Moveable Feast opened Oct. 3, 1998, to serve HIV patients. It was expanded to serve hospice patients in October 2003.
Now operating out of a facility on Trent Boulevard, it provides free meals to clients who meet income eligibility, and to their caregivers and dependent children.
The organization bought the building at Silver Maple Way, constructed in 1893 as a grocery store, in 2009 for $60,000. Renovations are expected to cost $105,000.
The building had been subdivided into apartments on one side, so the organization will maintain an efficiency apartment for use as an emergency shelter for clients.
Having dodged this bullet, Burgett said the compressor won't be reinstalled until until a cage can be built to secure it and motion lights installed.
But he is grateful for the return of the compressor and for the unnamed people who have been watching out for the building and calling police.
"It is good to have people watching out for you," he said.