A relief center for storm-ravaged residents of Staten Island, New York, was vandalized and looted overnight on Christmas by thieves who stole donated supplies and destroyed items intended for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The Midland Beach center on Midland Avenue has been an oasis of hope for those who lost their homes in the storm nearly two months ago. The supplies are housed under a tent, which is blocked off with barricades and manned by volunteers, but the workers left the center unattended on Christmas night.
Thieves made off with baby gear, baby blankets, baby clothes, winter clothing and warm bedding.
Losing those items is "a punch in the stomach," said Mike Hoffman, who heads up the Staten Island volunteer team known as Boots on the Ground.
"I had a couple leftover propane stoves that were donated," Hoffman said. "One was just ripped open, they didn't even take it. They just ripped it open and destroyed it. So that's one less family now that can cook a warm meal."
And with a winter storm hitting the area again on Wednesday, the center had been stocking crucial supplies.
"People are here struggling, suffering," said Erick Slick, a victim of Hurricane Sandy.
The people who broke into the center stole supplies from the shelves, ripped open bags of dog food and swiped jackets off hangers.
Volunteers running the site say they think the thieves plan to return the merchandise to stores for money.
The volunteers are now looking to relocate the relief center indoors.