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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Van critical to downtown Spokane nonprofit’s operations stolen and trashed

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 18, 2022

City Gate Fellowship's cargo van was stolen, damaged and then recovered this month. The downtown Spokane church that helps poor and homeless people now must pay for another van to carry out its daily food transportation operations.  (Courtesy of "The City Gate" Facebook page)
City Gate Fellowship's cargo van was stolen, damaged and then recovered this month. The downtown Spokane church that helps poor and homeless people now must pay for another van to carry out its daily food transportation operations. (Courtesy of "The City Gate" Facebook page)

A church that has served Spokane’s homeless population for decades is facing hardship after the only van it uses to transport food and supplies was stolen and damaged before being recovered in the last week.

John Murinko, pastor and director at City Gate Fellowship in downtown Spokane, said the nonprofit organization’s 2007 Ford Econoline was stolen late on the morning of Feb. 12 from the top of the Cowles Co. parking garage at Sprague Avenue and Madison Street. The garage is a few blocks from City Gate Fellowship, 170 S. Madison St. The Spokesman-Review is owned by a subsidiary of the Cowles Co.

Murinko said the ministry primarily uses the van to pick up food from grocery stores and food banks Tuesday through Friday, so it wasn’t until Tuesday morning that a driver looking to use the van did not find it at the parking structure.

Murinko said City Gate reported the van stolen to police and the vehicle was located around 4 p.m. that day in a parking lot on Park Road and Utah Avenue in Spokane Valley.

He said mud caked the tires and exterior. On the inside of the van, the steering column was ripped out, the gear shift lever was on the floor and wiring under the dash was pulled out.

“They were just malicious,” Murinko said.

He said needles were inside and outside the van, and a couple bloody rags were also inside.

Police did not find anyone inside the vehicle, and it’s unknown who stole the van. They are looking at camera footage from the parking garage, Murinko said.

He said the perpetrator pried the window down, entered the van and hot wired it to start the engine before leaving the downtown parking garage.

Murinko said the van is vital to City Gate’s operations and is a huge loss.

“It’s out all day” from Tuesday to Friday, said Murinko, noting the van is sometimes used the other three days of the week.

Murinko said he, staff and volunteers have used their personal vehicles to haul food in the meantime. He said only certain vehicles can do the job because they pick up pallets of food from places like Second Harvest.

The food is served to those in need at City Gate and placed in bags to take home or to the streets if people are homeless, Murinko said. City Gate also provides clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, toiletries and some apartment housing, according to its website.

He said he will probably find out Monday how much the car insurance company can chip in financially. He said it’s likely the nonprofit will be without a van all of next week as well. So far, Murinko said he found a used 2017 van for $28,000 in Post Falls.

“Our budget is pretty tight, but we’ve been around for so long, God has always provided for whatever it is that we need,” Murinko said.

A GoFundMe page was created to raise money to purchase a used van at https://bit.ly/3BxfrHi.

As of Friday afternoon, $350 has been raised with a $45,000 goal.

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