SOUTHBRIDGE (CBS) – There’s outrage in the town of Southbridge after a warehouse with supplies for tornado victims was abruptly shut down, with the remaining donations delivered to people not affected by the storm.
According to town officials, Father Peter Michael Preble, the Pastor at St. Michael’s Orthodox Christian Church, was in charge of the donation warehouse. They say without any warning or notice, he shut down the operation, and delivered the food, water, and supplies to groups like the Relay for Life, the Food Pantry, and the Boys and Girls Club in another town.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports.
“He just walked away. Why? There’s no reason for this,” said Fire Chief Richard Ciesla. “All he had to do what pick up the phone and let us know what he was doing, and that never happened.”
Roger Gibroux, a storm victim, says he was stunned.
“There’s still people that aren’t able to get back into their own homes and people who could use the help,” said Gibroux.
“Some of the volunteers called an said Father Preble had gotten tired of this and wanted to quit. So there was some grumblings that he was struggling with it,” said Town Manager Christopher Clarks. “He thought he was using good judgment and in hindsight it was not.”
Father Preble would not speak with us on camera, but did release a statement on his website:
“There was never any attempt on my part to mislead people who had generously donated items to those in need.”
“The distribution of food was not done to deny affected residents of needed aid. The decision was made due to the fact that the numbers had dwindled and it appeared that the aid was no longer needed.”
Mass.Gov: Tornado Recovery
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports
Father Preble was named to lead the donation effort by the former Chair of the Town Council who did not win re-election.
Chief Ciesla and the Town Manager say they are now working with the United Way to reorganize the effort, and make sure supplies get where they belong.
The priest called WBZ-TV later Thursday night to say that some of those donations had made it to tornado victims prior to the warehouse being cleaned out on Monday.
The town will not pursue charges unless people who donated come forward and want to press charges.