Just weeks before their annual giveaway to needy children, nearly 400 pairs of pants were reported stolen from a Charleston ministry.
Hands of Christ, a nonprofit Presbyterian ministry, had begun its 13th year of free school supplies and uniform clothes giveaway to thousands of local children in need.
Between Thursday and Friday, several boxes containing 372 pairs of pants went missing from the Westminster Presbyterian Church on Sam Rittenberg Boulevard, according to a police report.
Jim Frye, one of the organizers and longtime volunteers of the campaign, reported it to Charleston police on Friday.
"You got to wonder, who would steal from a church?" Frye said. "And you got to wonder who is brazen enough?"
Frye told investigators the pants were kept in an office room and in the gymnasium of the church.
When Frye arrived at the church Friday, several boxes of the blue and beige pants were gone, according to the report.
The pants had recently been purchased for the giveaway, which started Saturday and will be held in Charleston, Colleton, Berkeley, Dorchester and Williamsburg county churches.
"We were really scared. Fortunately, we're just starting our distribution," Frye said. "The man I buy clothes from in Georgia fortunately can restock us Thursday or Friday of this week."
Frye estimates it will cost the organization about $3,800 to restock the pants. Frye said they would love to have the pants back and wishes the perpetrator would have reached out for help instead of stealing.
"Brother, if you need something that bad, come to us and we'll try to help you," he said. "If their children need clothes, we'll give them clothes. What else can you do?"
The ministry was born in 2001 as a partnership between Zion-Olivet and Westminster Presbyterian, where the Rev. Tammy Gregory Brown, its executive director, was pastor at the time. It served 1,009 children that year.
Over its 13 years, Hands of Christ has grown into a partnership among 30 diverse local congregations, most within the Presbyterian Church (USA).
To date, the ministry has provided free uniform clothes, school supplies and other goods to more than 35,000 local elementary and middle school students.
The ministry expects to help potentially 5,200 children this year. Participating children must be in pre-kindergarten through eighth grades and attend a distribution event accompanied by a parent or guardian with a picture ID. A child can receive clothing and supplies from only one site.
Each child will receive two free pairs of pants, two shirts, two pairs of underwear and two pair of socks plus a bag of school supplies.
For more information or to donate items or volunteer, call Westminster Presbyterian at 766-8311.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.