A 41-year-old Festus man was arrested for allegedly stealing a van from the Ozark Food Pantry in Festus. The 2016 Ford cargo van was reported missing about 5 p.m. June 6 and was recovered shortly after 5 p.m. the next day, Festus Police Chief Tim Lewis said.
“The Highway Patrol recovered the van while checking on the well-being of the driver when they saw it pulled to the side of the road on I-55 near Barnhart,” Lewis said. “He was stopped on the side of the road. They brought him to us about 6 p.m. He has been released pending application of warrants.”
Lewis said the van was returned to food pantry officials with no apparent damage.
The highway patrol is seeking charges against the man for driving while intoxicated and tampering with a motor vehicle.
Carmelita Davidson, the food pantry president, said she was happy to get the van back.
“We picked it up at Pippin’s Towing Friday evening (June 7),” she said. “There were no damages – thank God for that. We put it right back into service.”
Prior to the suspect’s arrest, Davidson said surveillance footage showed the van was stolen around 3:15 p.m. June 6 from outside the pantry, 1 Sunset Park Trail, in Sunset Park. Its disappearance was not noticed until about 5 p.m. that day, however.
“We know the guy. We have (surveillance) tape. He’s been working here as a volunteer,” she said. “I left at 3. We had a volunteer here. (The suspect) walked up to him and asked to use the restroom. He went inside and went straight to where I keep the keys. He knew what he was doing. The video shows it.”
Davidson said the van is one of two the pantry owns and plays a vital role in its operations.
“We use it to collect food donations,” she said.
Davidson said volunteers had to use their own vehicles to pick up food while the van was missing.
The Ozark Food Pantry serves those who live in the Festus, Crystal City, Hematite, Pevely and Herculaneum ZIP codes, she said.
“We serve 55 clients or more per week,” Davidson said.