NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The Relig Program office was robbed sometime during the first week of August. This was the second break-in over the past six months at the house on the grounds of Saint Gabriel's Church of New Rochelle. The house, located at 112 Division Street, has served as the group's headquarters for decades.
In the two incidents, windows were broken, a television pryed off the wall and various items stolen or damaged. Compounding matters, Squirrels got into the house through the broken windows, eating food and candy and leaving an unpleasant aroma throughout the house.
"The place was ravaged by people looking for the money and laptops and expensive stuff we do not have," said Relig Founder Michael Tedesco.
Tedesco believes the culprits can be found among the homeless people who sleep on the lawn between the Relig house and the nearby Oasis Shelter.
Clients of Oasis must be sober to spend the night; people who are not sober and barred entry to Oasis often sleep on the lawn outside or even on the front porch of the Relig house.
"People are desperate for items to sell easily on the street," said Tedesco.
The Relig Program was founded by Tedesco in 1965 as a youth ministry to advocate for teenagers value and relevance in the Catholic Church and provide teens opportunities for Christian growth. The program is sponsored by the Catholic parishes of Holy Name of Jesus, St. Gabriel's Church of New Rochelle, St Joseph's Church of New Rochelle and Grants from the Hope for the Children Foundation.
Relig provides religious instruction for teens from the local Catholic parishes which take lessons from the classroom and turn them outwards into Christian action, social justice initiatives, trips to theater performances, athletics, and more. The year ends with a Mass to celebrate the graduation of high school seniors.
Tedesco is now looking to raise funds to install a security system including lighting and alarms and replace stolen or damaged items.
He has already received help in repairing the windows and replacing window shades from Danny Ferrara of Danny Ferrara Construction Company, roof repairs by Antonio Silva Roofing & Construction and Leo Sandoval (and his son Enrique) of Pelham Lumber which donated mops, garbage bags and cleaning supplies. Robert Ciardullo of R & K Pest Control assisted by removing and relocating the squirrels.
Tedesco organized a general cleanup which kicked off earlier today and is expected to run through the afternoon. The clean up will including cleaning and waxing floors, washing windows, cleaning shelves, and power washing the house exterior.
Among those joining Tedesco was Bill Coleman, Vice President of the F.U.S.E. New Rochelle public school union and Westchester County Board of Legislators Representative Sheila Marcotte.
"This generosity is greatly appreciated," said Tedesco. "It offers hope amid these robberies and the presence of so many lost and homeless people on the grounds and in the area."
Those wishing to support the efforts to repair, light and secure the Relig house and replace stolen or damaged items can call Michael Tedesco at (914) 632-6945 or mail a check payable to Relig" to Relig Program c/o Michael Tedesco, 23 Howard Parkway, New Rochelle, NY 10801.
Phil Gaddy has offered to match cash donations up to the first $250.
An online donation system is planned for the near future.