ALSTEAD, N.H. – A day after volunteers provided a special July 4 meal for those less fortunate, the Friendly Meals kitchen on Bragg Lane was vandalized. A volunteer discovered the damage and notified Food Shelf and Friendly Meals Director Mary Lou Huffling, who then called 911. Alstead Police Chief Stephen Murrell responded immediately to the scene and, assisted by a Walpole policeman, the building was fingerprinted.
After the incident the police chief said he hoped to have the case resolved soon and emphasized that this was an isolated incident. Murrell continued, “We will keep the community updated as the investigation progresses.” The chief will be sending assessors to the site to evaluate the cost of the damage. Vandalism is considered a felony if there is over $1,000 in damage, and a misdemeanor for lower amounts above $100.
Several volunteers went to the scene of the crime and stared with disbelief at this seemingly random act of vandalism to a facility that assists those in need. The damage included several pounds of raw meat strewn on the floor and extensive damage to the ceiling. Additionally, broken fluorescent light covers, sharp knives and a new blender were smashed, scattering glass across the floor. There was also a wrapped package of hamburger that started to burn on the stovetop right before a volunteer arrived. According to Murrell nothing was stolen. Volunteers spent several hours cleaning up the area.
A post by the police department on July 5 stated: “This case is under investigation; let’s hope we can find who did this to the Friendly Meal Program! On July 5, between the hours of Noon and 4 PM, the Food Shelf kitchen on Bragg Lane was vandalized. If anyone noticed unusual activity in the area during this time or has any other information, please contact the Alstead Police Department at 603 835-6277 or at firstname.lastname@example.org or at http://www.ctvalleycrimestoppers.org. Calls and emails are confidential.”
An updated post on Saturday, July 7, read, “The Alstead Police Department is continuing with the investigation on Wednesday. We have been pursuing several leads and conducting interviews with members of the community who have come forward with information. We will keep the community updated as the investigation progresses.”
The Friendly Meals and Meals on Wheels Program is supported entirely by local donations; the unprepared food is stored in the Langdon municipal building and cooked in the Friendly Meals kitchen and served in the Alstead Fire Station building. Friendly Meals, run entirely by volunteers with no administration costs, is the only meal program in the area, serving six towns. The program helps feed an average of 280 to 285 people a week including the delivery of meals to those unable to travel to the fire station.
Huffling said that she has received many donations to cover the loss of food and help with the repairs. When she first looked upon the chaotic scene, Huffling said resolutely, “There will be a meal tomorrow!” On July 6 shepherd’s pie was served.
Donations can be mailed to the Fall Mountain Food Shelf at P.O. Box 191, Alstead, N.H., 03602 or delivered to the pantry at 122 Route 12A in Langdon.