They are “the chefs of Elk Grove,” said this city’s former mayor, their volunteer work tied to just about everything in town from parades to graduation breakfasts, sports, schools, seniors and Scouts.
So when thieves last week stole thousands of dollars’ worth of cooking equipment from the Elk Grove Lions Club, people here took it personally.
“I can’t imagine anyone doing that, but anything’s possible, I guess,” said former Mayor Sophia Scherman. “They’ve done so much for the city, for its citizens. I’m very saddened that people came into their house – and that’s what they did – and took their stuff.”
Crooks cleaned out the club’s cook trailer full of the equipment the Lions used for countless pancake breakfasts, barbecues, and spaghetti and crab feeds that have supported schools, senior centers and nonprofits across the city for years. The thieves used a truck to pull the trailer parked in a storage yard near the Senior Center of Elk Grove on Sharkey Avenue, the building the Lions also call home, late Friday.
“Somebody decided to come in and open up the gate and took our trailer for a ride,” said Lions Club President Francisco Sanchez by phone from the Galt Flea Market on Wednesday, where he and club director Bill Hibbard were hunting for new equipment before a Friday spaghetti feed at Elk Grove High School.
Elk Grove police found the empty trailer the next day in the 9200 block of Emerald Vista Drive and estimate the loss at $12,000. Police continue to investigate the theft.
The thieves stole everything from spoons and spatulas to barbecue grills and propane tanks, taking the starch out of the Lions’ main fundraising efforts.
They even made off with the pancake mix.
“With everything that was taken, there’s no way we could do any pancake breakfasts outside,” Hibbard said.
But residents, businesses, civic organizations and local leaders are pitching in to help. Already, a local propane outfit has donated fuel tanks, Hibbard said, and Elk Grove Councilman Steve Detrick has taken to email to rally more support and donations for “a club that has helped our community in so many ways.”
“Day after day, they give thousands of hours to help others. They back Scouting, the school district, sporting teams and they do it at their cost,” Detrick said Wednesday. “Let’s step up and help them.”
Hibbard said the Elk Grove Lions put on about 100 functions a year. If it can be cooked, likely a Lion is flipping it on a griddle, pulling it off a grill or scooping it from a pot, and all to help someone in town.
“They’re always cooking something somewhere. They’re doing so many events for so many people. That’s who they are. That’s what they do. They care about the community. They don’t just talk about it, they do something about it,” said Pat Beal, executive director of the Senior Center of Elk Grove where the Elk Grove Lions cook a monthly pancake breakfast.
Money from the meals pays the Lions’ rent for space at the center and also keeps the center’s doors open. The senior center is one of only a handful across the state that are self-funded, Beal said. They also cook meals for the center’s volunteers, she said.
“It’s a lovely marriage,” Beal said. “They cook their way through life.”
Less than a week after the theft, Hibbard was humbled by the sudden support and grateful for the help.
“I thought we were the best-kept secret in Elk Grove,” Hibbard said. “We must’ve helped more people than we know, or the food’s good.”
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.