St. Mary's Episcopal Church burglarized
A Woodburn church that shares a space with an immigrant rights group was burglarized early Thursday morning. More than $7,000 worth of technology was stolen from St. Mary's Episcopal Church and Voz Hispana Cambio Comunitario, an immigrant rights nonprofit that has an office and holds events in the building.
According to Francisco Lopez, an organizer with Voz Hispana, security camera footage reviewed by the Woodburn Police Department showed a person wearing a mask and gloves breaking into the building between 2:30 and 3:30 a.m. on Thursday. The person cut off the telephone and security cables upon entering the building, according to Lopez.
Lopez said Alejandra Lily, executive director of Voz Hispana, was the first to learn of the robbery. She arrived with other volunteers at the church at 8:30 a.m. Thursday for the organization's weekly "Amor y Desayuno," or "Love and Breakfast," which provides free meals to those in need.
The volunteers were greeted by the damage: the broken window, files strewn across the floor of the Voz Hispana office and damaged church artifacts. They called the Woodburn Police Department, which is investigating the incident.
Lopez said the church and the nonprofit are still assessing the damage. The most expensive thing taken was a sound system worth over $7,000 that's owned by the church but is used regularly by Voz Hispana for community forums and events like an annual toy distribution. Additionally, another church group that rents the facility lost more than $900 worth of technology equipment that had been in storage.
Some missing items, like a printer, were later found in the street outside the building. "It was raining," Lopez said. He said they're not sure yet whether the printer still works.
Notable about the damage, Lopez said, was that the person had clearly gone through the files Voz Hispana keeps in its office.
"We don't keep files with the names of any people," Lopez said of the organization, which serves many undocumented members of the community. "We keep receipts and invoices (in those files). We still need to do an inventory if anything was lost from those papers."
Lopez also noted that the incident came at a time of particular tension. He mentioned a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center that showed more hate crimes were reported in Oregon than any other state in the 10 days following the presidential election last year. And, in light of President Donald J. Trump's Jan. 28 executive order on immigration, Voz Hispana's activism has been especially visible.
"Lately, our organization has been more vocal against deportation and the policies of the president," Lopez said. "We've been organizing marches and rallies in Salem, Hillsboro and other places."
And while Lopez emphasized that they don't yet know the motivation for the burglary, the timing made the incident feel especially pointed.
"We don't know why Voz Hispana. We don't know why they took out the folders and files, why they broke the cups that we use for Mass," Lopez continued. "It felt almost like a hate symbol."
A Facebook post by St. Mary's Pastor Samuel Borbon also highlighted that the person went through the files.
"It's very strange how they took the time to go over the files in one of the offices that we share with Voz Hispana," Borbon wrote.
Lopez said that both the church and Voz Hispana are going through the insurance claim process. But he said there's been an outpouring of support for the organization since the incident. He's been getting calls from people in Oregon and California offering donations and services, including a carpenter who offered to fix the damaged building and a person who offered to lend a sound system to the building.
"We're grateful for support from community at large and for the police officers that came," Lopez said. "We're grateful that nobody got hurt. Material things can be replaced."
And, Lopez said he and others in the organization are praying for the person who burglarized the building.
"We're not angry. We're sad and heartbroken," Lopez said. "We have unconditional love, even for the person who broke into the building."