LONGVIEW, Wash. -- The food is free -- so why would anyone rip off a food bank? It's a question baffling people in Longview, where the town's largest food bank was targeted by burglars, who took extraordinary steps to steal.

The crooks knocked over shelves, broke doors, tossed food and clothing into the aisles. They ransacked the office and broke a glass display case to steal costume jewelry. They also ripped off meat from the walk-in freezers.

Word of Thursday morning's burglary spread fast and soon after, 75 volunteers jumped into action to clean up and make repairs, so they could get back to helping those in need.

It helps me not to go hungry, to be quite honest, said Marcus Lane, one of several hundred people who stood in line to receive food on Friday.

The St. Vincent De Paul Food Bank in Longview served 60,000 people in Cowlitz County last year, handing out more than 1.2 million pounds of food.

I'm so sorry about your break-in, said Longview resident Chris Dixon to volunteers, as he stopped by to donate warm clothes and offer his support.

We were crying and hugging because it hurts, but we are now over it ... I'm still a little nervous, said John Gotshall, president of the charity's board of directors. That's the killer. If they had just asked, we would give them whatever they want, whether it's costume jewelry or food, we've got plenty of both.

Clients at the food bank couldn't believe anyone would want to steal from the volunteers who help feed thousands of people every month in Cowlitz County.

It's just pathetic, because there are plenty of places that give food out for free, I mean why in the world would you rob a food bank?, said Lane.

One of the thieves cut themselves during the break-in, so Longview police took away blood evidence and are searching for whoever is responsible.

Meanwhile, this volunteer operation is already back to making a huge difference in the community.

Even thoughtless thieves could not stop that.

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