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Peoria nonprofit recovering from multiple nights of vandalism

Damaged doors and windows on the front facade of Sophia's Kitchen are covered with plywood.
Sophia's Kitchen
Damaged doors and windows on the front facade of Sophia's Kitchen are covered with plywood.

A Peoria nonprofit is working to recover after a recent string of vandalism incidents.

Sophia’s Kitchen is a nonprofit food pantry that serves free sack lunches Monday through Friday for Peoria residents in need. The agency also provides groceries from the pantry to get people, and their pets, through the weekend.

Program Director Claire Crone said a pattern of recurring vandalism started on June 1 when a person known to the organization shattered a glass door to break in and steal some “sweets.” Crone said the pantry has security cameras and the person was arrested shortly after.

“Then, after he was released, he came back last week and smashed a window,” she said. “[He] wasn't able to get in that time, left again, and then this last Tuesday, he did break into the building.”

This time, there was damage to a second glass door, a service window and a roll-down window in the kitchen. Crone estimates there’s around $5,000 of repairs needed, adding because the nonprofit's insurance deductible is $3,000 and the incidents are considered separately, they’ll be paying much of the cost out of pocket.

“It’s very frustrating, it’s very time-consuming,” Crone said. “Especially the incident on Tuesday, because, you know, we came in…to a disaster, so I had to get in extra early and start sweeping up glass. And if you’ve ever tried to clean up broken glass, you know how long that takes.”

Outside of one missed agency shipment she estimated affected about 30 people, operations at Sophia’s Kitchen haven’t been and won’t be interrupted, she said.

“We're making sure that we still are open and that people are still getting served the way that they should be,” she said. “Everybody else is behaving, everybody else is being kind and understanding. So why should they suffer because this man has a problem?”

Crone said the person was arrested again and released with an ankle monitor after last week's break-in. The organization has added more improved security measures to the building and coordinated with its security company.

Crone hopes the person doesn’t choose to come back again.

“There was no reason for him to come at midnight and smash our windows to get into the kitchen to eat food,” she said. “If he had just waited till the following morning, we would have been happy to have given him the food for free.”

You can find more information on Sophia’s Kitchen here.

Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.