By Sarina Trangle
The Rev. Laurence Byrne said one of many revelers at All Saints’ Episcopal Church’s annual Holly Bazaar stole about $600 from the Bayside parish Saturday.
Byrne said someone took advantage of the afternoon rush and grabbed an envelope stuffed with cash and checks out of a closet in the book room, where a parishioner carefully stashed the proceeds from the event.
The minister said a couple hundred people descended on the parish, at 214-35 40th Ave., to peruse gifts, enjoy baked goods and pick out wreaths and trees.
“Someone must have been watching and opened the closed door,” Byrne said. “They didn’t take her purse. They didn’t take the iPod that was sitting there. They just took the envelope with the money.”
All Saints’ Episcopal Church funneled nearly $7,000 raised at the bazaar into its operating budget, which Byrne said finances basic ministry duties and outreach work.
But the heist failed to temper the parish’s drive. Byrne said shortly after the theft was announced parishioners began contributing to the church to replenish its earnings.
“It was a bit like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ I think all the money has been pledged since,” Byrne said. “In fact, the person who won our big raffle prize, which was $500, donated it back to the church.”
Byrne said he was inclined to pay it forward and would consider not prosecuting the thief if the $600 was returned.
“I would like to think that it was somebody who desperately needed the money to survive rather than an opportunist,” said Byrne, who has served as the All Saints’ minister for nine years. “This is by far and away the biggest loss we’ve taken. Usually, the shoplifters get $2 or $3 jewelry, no big deal.”
The parish reported the theft to the 111th Precinct. Community Affairs Officer John Erdman said the precinct received a report that around $600 or $700 was stolen during the bazaar, but had no suspects as of press time.
Parishioners said they wanted to publicize the incident to deter further thefts during seasonal events at churches and synagogues.
“The Grinch is out,” said Peter Rutledge, whose wife helped organize the bazaar. “It would be a public service that other churches be made aware of this.”
But Erdman said police believed this was an isolated incident and there was no reason to anticipate additional thefts.
Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at email@example.com.