WYOMING – It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.
The historical Institute building of the Wyoming Presbyterian Church was struck by thieves last week, and 100 feet of copper piping was stolen and the building’s furnace and hot water heater were damaged.
Estimates to replace the pipes and repair the damage is over $1,000, money the church would rather be using to help the needy, said Pastor Laura Lewis.
“It’s a lot more money that we have to spend on something like that,” she said. “It really broke our hearts. We’d rather be focused on Christmas and helping out the poor of the community.”
Church members discovered the theft last Saturday when they arrived at the building to set up for the church’s annual Advent party the next day, which was to feature a potluck dinner and Christmas craft show.
“They noticed the water wasn’t flowing and the heat was turned off,” Lewis said. “A plumber came in and said ‘I can tell you why the water’s not working, all your copper pipe is missing.’”
Lewis said the theft didn’t deter that group. A church elder and Clerk of Session Mary Williams volunteered to move the party to her house, which is nearby.
“We crammed everybody in her house and the party went on,” Lewis said.
Wyoming Mayor Bob Boyer said he was disgusted by the crime.
“It shows you how low people can get, stealing from a church at Christmas,” he said. “It’s a small congregation. They’re barely getting by conducting religious services. For them to be socked with this bill around the holidays, it’s so sad.”
Lewis said insurance will not cover the damage because the church has a high deductible to keep the premium low.
The Institute, built in the 1840s and on the National Register of Historic Places, was formerly a school and is now home to the church’s many events including fundraisers, church dinners and socials and Christian education classes.
The church has already received some support from the community. Plumber Bob Carpinet is donating his time and the church has received some donations, but more is needed. To help, send donations to the Wyoming Presbyterian Church, 25 Institute St., Wyoming, Pa., 18644.
“We have had a number of folks already respond, and it’s been very heartwarming to receive the help we have,” she said.
Mayor Boyer said copper theft isn’t unique to Wyoming. He said police are convinced it’s a professional copper thief or thieves.
Boyer said area officials are seeing more and more of such crimes. ‘For Sale’ signs and obituary viewing notices are two ways in which thieves monitor when people aren’t home.
“The whole guise of this crime is if the house is for sale, people expect to see work crews in a van, usually in daylight hours,” Boyer said. “And thieves read the papers to find out when viewings are and then they know nobody will be home.”
Boyer said Wyoming Police promise a “relentless investigation” to arrest any suspects.
Anyone with information about the theft is asked to contact 911 or the Wyoming Police at 570-693-2650.