$30K theft hits needy Miami Overtown church

Criminals attack dream of rehabilitating abandoned building

MIAMI – Charles McKenzie said a historic church at Miami's Overtown neighborhood is in desperate need of help to salvage a project that they hoped would turn an adjacent drug house into housing for the homeless.  

McKenzie, a church deacon, said the Temple Missionary Baptist Church, 1723 NW Third Ave., is a beacon of light in a high crime area plagued by poverty. The church members are not the the type to sit down and complain, McKenzie said. They take action.

He said every Tuesday hundreds of people line up for a free meal. The cooking begins about 6 a.m. Some 200 church members contribute to the church's projects. 

"There is a lot of need. We have squatters," McKenzie said. "They live in the open and we want to bring some of those people inside." 

Determined to do more, the church took out a mortgage to purchase a $90,000 adjacent abandoned building in 2002. McKenzie and Glenroy Deveaux, the church's pastor, said they made a lot of sacrifices to be able to come up with the money to buy and repair the 1977 property. It hasn't been easy. 

 "We've had no resources ourselves," Deveaux said. 

The church opened its doors some 86 years ago. Buying the property was one of the biggest investments in the church's history. McKenzie said completing the renovation has been challenging for years, as crooks continue to break in. 

"We have had all kinds of problems," McKenzie said. "Before it was windows, doors, all kinds of little things. They have taken the wiring before."

The church got through that and other hurdles, and just as they were ready to undergo an inspection, $30,000 in wiring went missing. McKenzie and Deveaux haven't lost faith. They are waiting for angels.  

"We always outlast evil, but one has to be persistent," McKenzie said.  "We are hoping others will help us on the battle. We just need help. We need some assistance. That is the only way goodness will always be preserved."

City of Miami police was investigating the crime and asking anyone with information to call Crime Stoppers at 305-471-8477.

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