After van stolen, church gets double donation to get back on road

Evan James Carter
The Detroit News

Warren — A local pastor has been buoyed by generosity of strangers after someone drove off and smashed his congregation's food bank collection van.  

Warren auto repair shop manager Martin Hermiz heard about the August theft and decided to help someone who helps out so many others.

If the replacement of the van wasn't enough, at about the same time that Pastor Curtiss Ostosh of Harvest Time Christian Fellowship received a call from Hermiz, St. Blase Catholic Church's business manager, Ben Ancona, said the parish wanted to donate a 2000 Dodge Caravan to the food bank. 

"It was sort of like two for your trouble," said Ostosh.

Harvest Time Christian Fellowship Senior Pastor Curtiss Ostosh, of Warren, and Passport Pizza co-founder Sue LaTour, of Macomb Twp., unload food from their new / used 2004 Chevy Express cargo van at the church as their other donated 2000 Dodge Caravan is seen at right.

The stolen van was used by the church to deliver food seven days a week. After it was taken from the church on Aug. 17, the thief allegedly smashed the van in Warren. That's when residents recognized the van and jumped in to detain the driver until police arrived.

Hermiz, a manager at Platinum Automotive in Warren, said he couldn't imagine why someone would steal from a church.  

"We were real brokenhearted and sad that someone could really do that to the church, especially because that van was feeding almost 400 families a month," Hermiz said.

Hermiz said he was sitting with his father and Assistant Manager Bill Makres when Makres said he should donate the van on the lot.

Ostosh said he was surprised when he received the call from Hermiz offering a 2004 Ford Express and $500 of free maintenance "out of the blue."

"I was overwhelmed with emotion actually," said Ostosh. "We didn't have the means to acquire another van ... he gave us exactly what we needed at exactly the right time."

Also see: Van used for Warren church food bank stolen, crashed

 By Saturday, the vans were being used to pick up food, Ostosh said, replacing a van the church rented to deliver food and one it borrowed from another ministry. 

The food bank provides food to about 500 families a month in Warren and serves about 400 to 500 hot meals after Wednesday and Sunday services at Harvest Time Christian Fellowship.

Ostosh said he hopes to use a GoFundMe campaign to help the food bank buy gas and pay for insurance on the new vehicles The stolen van had been owned and insured by Passport Pizza in Warren.

"Saying that we were overjoyed would be an understatement," Ostosh said. "I've seen everything in ministry, but this absolutely blew me away to see everything happen that quick."

Twitter: @EvanJamesCarter