Church theft on Christmas Day takes emotional toll on youngest members

Thousands of dollars in equipment and a truck was stolen during a Christmas Day break-in at Asheville Family Church. (Photo credit: Asheville Family Church)

Thousands of dollars in equipment was stolen during a Christmas Day break-in at a Buncombe County church. But it's the emotional theft that has church members pleading for one of the items to be returned.

The theft happened between 9:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Christmas Day at Asheville Family Church on New Leicester Highway.

Members said the theft struck at the heart of the congregation because of one item -- a red 1988 Ford F-150 truck. It was sitting in what's now an empty dirt patch, and it meant the most to the children of the church.

Smiles are a little tougher to come by just a day after Christmas at Asheville Family Church.

“I really don't know what to say about it. It was just a shock,” said Danny Scarborough, a member of the church involved in some of the maintenance. "We're a small church, and we don't have a lot and most of what we have, people do donate.”

Thieves struck hours after Scarborough and others left to enjoy time with their families.

“When they broke in, they broke the lock. What we had in here that we know got stolen, we had two Husqvarna leaf blowers, we had two ratchet sets and a pressure washer.

It's equipment the church relied on, expensive tools, donated or purchased by members.

Unknowingly, thieves also struck at the core of this church's spirit stealing the red truck beside the shed.

“The thing is, the person who donated it passed away last Christmas, and he left it to the pastor. So, that's kind of a ...” Scarborough said, trailing off, at a loss for words over the theft.

A man known to many of the children simply as Mr. Happy left behind a tradition with his donated truck to the church.

“We knew it as Happy's truck. In the summertime, we made a pool in the back of it, and he gave it to the church and he gave it knowing we would be able to continue to do that for the kids,” said Susan Morris, a member of the church and in charge of the children’s ministries.

The truck wasn't much to look at, with the brake assembly out and the fender and rear left bumper bent, but it's what the vehicle symbolized that can't be replaced.

“It kind of gave them a little piece of Happy back,” said Morris.

Church members worked feverishly Dec. 26 to inventory items and beef up security to prevent another theft.

“Because he was so close to the kids, and they loved him so much,” said Morris.

They're hoping someone in the community noticed something and will provide the tip that brings Happy's truck back.

“He would probably be discouraged that someone would take it, but, at the same time, he would pray for that person, as all of us will,” said Morris.

Anyone with any information is urged to call the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office at 828-255-5050 or 828-250-4436.

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