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Vandals Puncture Gas Tank: Key Vehicle for Nonprofit’s Holiday Season Sidelined

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Gas pours into the parking lot after vandals punctured the fuel tank of a van owned by Fresno-based non-profit Alliance for Medical Outreach and Relief. (Special to GV Wire)
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A punctured gas tank on a Fresno nonprofit’s van comes as the organization had food deliveries and high school students to transport.

On Nov. 17 around 9:30 p.m., Fresno police received a call about a truck parked next to a van owned by Fresno-based Alliance for Medical Outreach & Relief. One member of the cleaning crew who made the call went out to approach the driver of the van who was at that time beneath the van, according to Davena Witcher, executive director of AMOR.

The man beneath the van fled. It was after that that the member of the cleaning crew noticed a large puddle of gas in the parking lot.

“I was planning to take the van out on Saturday morning, so my colleague had filled it up for me,” Witcher said.

After the nonprofit’s van had its catalytic converters stolen nearly a year ago, the organization responded by protecting the oft-stolen devices with cages.

Witcher thinks that because they added the layer of protection, the vandals responded by stabbing a hole in the van’s gas tank. Video does not show anything to collect gas with, suggesting it wasn’t the gas they were after.

But ahead of the holiday season, the vandalism complicates the ability of the organization to provide aid to Mendota residents.

(Disclosure: GV Wire Publisher Darius Assemi is a member of AMOR’s board of directors.)

Toy Drive, College Tours, Holiday Meals to Deliver

AMOR focuses on increasing access to healthcare, behavioral health support, education, and other social services to impoverished areas. In 2020, AMOR opened the Wellness Center in Mendota.

Witcher calls the nonprofit’s only van their “utility vehicle.”

“We haul volunteers around in it, we use it to deliver food to our seniors out in Mendota, we are planning a college tour for the high school students in Mendota,” Witcher said. “It’s really our utility vehicle to deliver food and volunteers and support our project at AMOR Wellness.”

The Saturday following the vandalism, Witcher had planned to drive nine teenage volunteers out to the west Fresno County city to help with food distribution.

Witcher was able to coordinate colleagues to drive the volunteers in their personal vehicles.

Witcher called a dealership to ask about getting a new gas tank for the vehicle. Because it’s on back order, the dealer estimated three months before it would arrive. They hope to find a used one in the meantime.

A repair estimate provided this week says it could cost $1,000 in parts and labor to fix it.

“Especially at this time of year, you know, when everybody is being so generous with food, with, we’ve got a coat drive going on, we’ve got a toy drive going on, and the van is the primary transporter of all those things out to our community in Mendota,” Witcher said.

A Mendota family receives a food box from AMOR for the Thanksgiving holiday. (GV Wire/Eric Martinez)

About AMOR

AMOR is a community benefit organization that works strategically with its partners to build healthier communities in areas of concentrated poverty. Whether across the globe in Afghanistan, Ukraine, or in our own backyard of West Fresno County, AMOR strives to increase access to quality, affordable health care and health education. You can donate to AMOR at this link.

Edward Smith began reporting for GV Wire in May 2023. His reporting career began at Fresno City College, graduating with an associate degree in journalism. After leaving school he spent the next six years with The Business Journal, doing research for the publication as well as covering the restaurant industry. Soon after, he took on real estate and agriculture beats, winning multiple awards at the local, state and national level. You can contact Edward at 559-440-8372 or at Edward.Smith@gvwire.com.

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