CHICAGO (CBS) — A local charity that brings joy to the needy every holiday season has become the victim of robbery and sabotage.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports the Paul Hall Community Center, which provides food and toys to thousands of families every year, was left in the dark after someone ripped out copper power cables Sunday night, cutting power to the building.

“I’m devastated over this,” Rev. Paul Hall said Wednesday, as he showed off what the criminals did at the rear of his Far South Side community center.

Someone cut the lock on a power box on the back of the building, and broke into it to get at the copper wiring inside.

The copper thieves severed the electricity to the building, and plunged the Paul Hall Community Center into darkness.

Food for the center’s weekly food drive was spoiled when refrigerators and freezers were left without power.

Minister Mary Williams said, “All this is ruined, we can’t use none of it now.”

There are no working lights in the chapel, the fish in the center’s aquarium have died, and children at the daycare center were left trying to play basketball in near darkness, with only a little sunlight to illuminate the basketball court.

Hall said he believes it will cost about $3,000 to replace the copper wires that were torn out.

“That’s hard money to come by,” he said, even though members of the church who are electricians were donating their services to make repairs.

Hall’s fellow pastor, the Rev. Paul Jakes – pastor at New Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church – stopped by with a check to help out.

“We’re from the West Side, but we’re all connected,” Jakes said.

The center has filed a police report, but officers have seen a lot of this these days – thieves stealing copper for little money on the black market.

“To do this to a church, and a community center, when a lot of kids are dying in Chicago, and they need a place like this as a safe haven after school, it is just unthinkable. It is tragic,” Hall said.

ComEd spokeswoman Noelle Gaffney said crews have been working with the center over the past three days, helping the volunteer electricians repair the wires in the box. Gaffney said that work had to be done properly before ComEd could take care of the problem on its end.

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