A crew of crooks broke into a Gerritsen Beach Knights of Columbus Hall on March 31, swiping thousands of dollars collected to combat cystic fibrosis — and angering 400 chapter members hoping to top last year’s contribution to the cause.
Police say the thieves broke into the group’s Gerritsen Avenue headquarters between Cyrus and Seba avenues sometime between 1 and 5 am after bashing in a window.
Once inside, the thieves ripped out the cables leading to the alarm and ransacked the bar and a back office, takinga computer, money from an arcade machine and a safe containing more than $12,000. The safe was ripped right out of the office floor and carried away on a dolly.
Knights of Columbus member Mel Hildago said the stolen money was collected for the group’s annual pool tournament. Each year, tournament proceeds, as well as the raffles and journal advertisements, go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
“Last year we raised about $9,800, but this year we were going to surpass that number,” Hildago said. “It’ll be hard to raise more than $10,000 in a matter of days, but we can’t let that disable us.”
Cops have few leads in their search for the burglars. No fingerprints were recovered from the scene, leading investigators to believe that the burglars were wearing gloves.
The crew loaded their loot into a vehicle and drove down Gerritsen Avenue to a nearby library, where they cracked open the safe and rifled through it.
“The cops found a lot of our envelopes over there, but there wasn’t any money in them,” Hildalgo said.
Over the last few days, members have cleaned up the mess the thieves left behind. They’ve also put bars on the broken window — added protection against any future break-ins at their decades-old headquarters.
With the pool tournament just days away, they’ve begun collecting for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation all over again — this time with both a renewed sense of purpose and the surrounding close-knit community’s help.
“A parent came in this morning with her little girl,” Hildago recalled. “They gave us a box of chocolates and donated $20 to the foundation. It was heartbreaking.”
Knights of Columbus Raymond A. Loughran charity pool tournament [2882 Gerritsen Ave. between Cyrus and Seba avenues in Gerritsen Beach, (718) 646-9503] on April 9 at noon. One can also make a donation to the Knights of Columbus pool tournament by visiting the blog Gerritsenbeach.net.