OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — A community organization that helps feed thousands of people in need now could use some help from the Bay Area after its food truck was stolen Wednesday night.

“I started crying because that’s our only food truck,” said Cesar Cruz, who runs the Homies Empowerment program and is a KPIX Jefferson Award winner.

Cruz has transformed his education center into the “Freedom Store,” a food bank at a storefront on MacArthur Boulevard in East Oakland.

More than 2,000 people wait in long lines every week to get food and other household items from the Freedom Store. Most were working before COVID-19 wiped out their jobs.

The group’s only truck was a gift. It has been allowing volunteers to gather donations from stores and warehouses.

“Here we are trying to do something good in the community, you know, and then all of a sudden the rug is swept from under us,” Cruz said.

Cesar got some good news and some bad news early Thursday morning. The truck was parked on an Oakland street. Whoever stole it had abandoned it but it wouldn’t run.

“A community hero — Miss Sophia Navarro who owns a tow-truck company — she came to save the day,” Cruz said. “She wouldn’t charge us anything. She towed it all the way to Berkeley.”

Once in the shop, the mechanic informed Cruz there was another problem with the truck: somebody had stolen its catalytic converter, an expensive part.

The community rallied and donated just enough to get it out of the shop but it is barely operable.

“The mechanics helped out, making like little Mickey-Mouse adjustments,” said Rogelio X of Homies Empowerment. “So it’s working right now but we still need to fix those parts.”

The group does not have the money to make the major repairs.

“We can’t afford to fix it,” Cruz said. “So how do we feed 2,000 people with one truck that barely works that was stolen?”

It’s a question that’s still without an answer at the moment.

“If you can spare a refrigerated truck, if you own a mechanic shop and you can help us fix it or if you have diapers and toiletries, rice and beans, we need it,” Cruz said.

“Our people are hungry. Do you know that more people are living on concrete … than ever before?”

Cruz said anyone can pitch in at his GoFundMe page.

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