Bernice Gilliard sounded more wounded that the van she drives for her outreach ministry was stolen on Martin Luther King Day than she did about the theft itself.
“Why that day?” Gilliard said Tuesday with exasperation. “It was like my heart had been stabbed. If they had asked for a ride, I would have stopped what I was doing and taken them where they wanted to go.”
As you may know, MLK Day is designed to be a day of community service, something Gilliard does every day.
On Monday, Gilliard almost didn’t go to El-Bethel Baptist Church, the base for the free clothing ministry “From Me To You” that she has operated since taking early retirement from her banking job in 1999.
“Started not to, but then said we should: It’s Martin Luther King Day,” Gilliard told me. “I was going to take over some things a lady needed for her grandchildren. We didn’t work all day. We were getting ready to leave.”
Gilliard said her girlfriend Gail Beard had offered to warm up the 2005 Dodge Caravan with almost 200,000 miles on it.
“Had my coat on,” said Gilliard. “She started the car, came in. I was going back out to get in the car with a bag and I said, ‘Where’s my car?’ She said, Your car is out there. I said, ‘No it’s not.’ ”
A man who had dropped off some items said he saw the van leaving and presumed Gilliard was driving. He thought there was a problem because the car was moving so fast.
Channeling Police Chief Janeé Harteau, I asked Gilliard whether she knew that this is why police tell you not to warm your car unattended.
“We were really not. I didn’t leave it. It had [been] started and [she] walked back in here,” Gilliard. “Just that few minutes. It wasn’t like I started and left it out there.”
I’d say that — and the fact nobody was hurt — means the vehicle was turned on and left … unattended.
On Wednesday there was good news and bad news, according to Gilliard’s daughter Linda A. Anderson.
“My mom just received a call from the police that her van [has] been located and that it [has] been towed to the impound lot,” Anderson wrote via e-mail. They didn’t say what condition it was in. “This was the first time that she has outwardly expressed her hurt. She was just sobbing on the phone. She doesn’t even want the vehicle anymore she says, she doesn’t know who had it or what was done in it. I have reassured her that she will get another vehicle.”
Later I talked to a deflated Gilliard: “It’s not drivable. The bumper is hanging off. The back end looks like they had an accident in it and there is no key. I had to leave it at the impound lot. I called my insurance.”
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