How to help
The Pawnee County Food Pantry building at 501 Main St. in Larned will be closed through the Thanksgiving holiday extending tentatively through Monday due to damage from a recent break-in early Wednesday morning.
To help the Orphan Grain Train and Pawnee County Food Pantry, contact the United Way of Central Kansas at 620-792-2404. Anyone interested in making a donation can make their checks payable to UWCK and note the Orphan Grain Train or Pawnee County Food Pantry in the memo. They can be mailed to 1125 Williams St., Great Bend, KS 67530.
For immediate food assistance, call Tonya Andrews, Helping Hands director, at 620-264-0020.
LARNED – It was on the eve of Thanksgiving, but it was difficult for Margaret Larson to be thankful Wednesday morning.
Larson of Larned is a volunteer who works with the Orphan Grain Train and Pawnee County Food Pantry at 501 Main St. here and she awoke Wednesday to learn someone had vandalized the building that houses these organizations as well as the Ministerial Alliance’s Helping Hands Ministries program and other entities.
“This is just appalling,” she said. “Here we are to help people and someone goes and does this.”
The vandal trashed the building’s interior. The perpetrator cut himself breaking a window, bled on the floor and items inside, poured oil and gas all over, scattered paper towels and toilet paper, filled a grocery cart with food and fled.
He didn’t make it very far. He collapsed on the front side walk.
The Orphan Grain Train collects clothing that is shipped to the agency’s facility in Nebraska, and there were 70 to 80 boxes covered with oil and gas and may have to be thrown away. There were also two freezers filled with food for the pantry that were splattered with blood and will be to be pitched.
“There are a lot of people in need and we won’t be able to be serve their needs,” Larson said. This is a busy time of year for the pantry and the damage is forcing the operation to be closed at least through Monday.
According to Capt. Lance Duft of the Larned Police Department, at about 2 a.m., a police officer on routine patrol found Byron Higgins in the 500 block of Main who was lying on the ground with a shopping cart of various food items. The officer soon noticed the food pantry and Don’s Motors at 212 W. 5th St. had been burglarized.
Various food items were removed from the pantry building, and there was also extensive damage done to the inside of both businesses, including large amounts of automotive fluids that were poured on the walls and floors.
Theft and damage dollar amounts are still being determined at this time.
Higgins was injured and taken to Pawnee Valley Community Hospital by Larned Emergency Medical Services where he was treated and released. He was later arrested by the LPD and is being held at the Pawnee County Jail awaiting formal charges by the Pawnee County Attorney’s Office.
What people can do
“People have really stepped up,” Larson said. She has had numerous offers of help.
This building is also used for the Food Buddies Program, Narcotics Anonymous chapter meetings, and commodities distributions from Great Bend. There is no charge to the groups and organizations that utilize the building and it is all taken care of by the OGT and Food Pantry.
Tonya Andrews, Helping Hands director, said anyone needing emergency Helping Hands services may contact her at 620-264-0020.
Now, as they clean the building, the organizations seek cash donations to help cover the clean-up and to replenish supplies, said Julie Bugner-Smith, United Way of Central Kansas executive director. They are unable to accept clothing or food donations at this time, as they do not have anywhere to store the items until the building has been properly cleaned.
Food donations may be made at Edward Jones, 506 Broadway and Progressive Therapy, 117 Sixth St. in Larned, that are both engaged in food drives.
The Orphan Grain Train and Larned Food Pantry are community partners with the UWCK, and have asked that all donations go through UWCK.
Anyone interested in making a donation, can make their checks payable to UWCK and note the Orphan Grain Train or Pawnee County Food Pantry in the memo. They can be mailed to 1125 Williams St., Great Bend, KS 67530.