The management and employees of a local convenience store aren’t letting a slap in the face at holiday time stop them from remembering the reason for the season.
On Monday afternoon, the Pak-A-Sak convenience store on Line Street in Columbia City was lauded by the local Salvation Army as the first organization to volunteer for Friday bell-ringing duty this holiday season.
Just hours later, the store was held up at gunpoint, but the store’s employees are even more determined to help the needy despite the harrowing Monday night ordeal.
“We’re dedicated to caring,” said Pak-A-Sak Manager Teena Hensley. “We care about the town of Columbia City and our customers and nobody here’s expressed any real concern about what we’re planning.”
The local Salvation Army called upon businesses and organizations to pitch in for the army’s annual fundraiser where volunteers stand at the entrances to various businesses and ring bells.
Donors are asked to drop monetary contributions into kettles near the bell ringers.
The Pak-A-Sak store was the first organization to answer the call.
A team of five Pak-A-Sak employees will work in three-hour shifts to collect money in front of the convenience store, ringing bells and greeting customers from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 3.
Pat Mossburg of the local Salvation Army branch heard about the robbery Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m really saddened by this and I wonder sometimes if the people who do this sort of thing really know how their actions are affecting people,” Mossburg said.
“You have to wonder what’s going on with that person.”
Stronger than her sadness and disappointment with the crime that was committed is Mossburg’s level of inspiration by the staunch resolve being shown by her volunteer bell ringers.
“You know, it’s just amazing that they stepped up,” she said. “They’re the little place that can, as far as I’m concerned.
“I think it speaks volumes about not only the type of people they are, but also the company that allows them to do it.”
Mossburg said Tuesday she was uplifted by the group’s show of strength in the face of adversity.
“I can always be inspired by people who look past themselves and give to others the way these people do,” she said.
“They’ve helped us for the last three years with hygiene items and whenever I’ve run out, I know I can call them and they’ll come up with something for us.”
The Monday armed robbery happened at about 6:45 p.m. Police are still on the lookout for a while male in his late 30s or early 40s who brandished a firearm and made off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
Columbia City police, as well as members of the Indiana State Police and the Whitley County Sheriff’s Department responded to the incident.
Police say the suspect was dressed in a gray hooded sweatshirt, blue jeans and a dark baseball hat and dark-colored boots.
Police said a witness described the getaway care as an older model white Dodge Intrepid, with a block design that angles from the back door to the bottom of the front door.
“Maybe it’s just a sign of the times and I don’t know if maybe this person who did this is the kind of person who needs help too,” Mossburg said.
“It’s like bad things happening to good people. I’m just thankful to God that no one was hurt.”
Columbia City Police Det. Tim Longenbaugh said Tuesday the Columbia City Police Department will be beefing up patrols not only in the area around the Pak-A-Sak but also throughout the city.