A vicar has praised the generosity of ‘good Samaritans’ who have offered support after ‘thousands’ of food items and clothes were stolen from a homeless charity.

Hundreds of tins that had been collected to feed the homeless were taken during a burglary at St James’ Church in Accrington, along with clothes and toiletries. The church’s CD player used for worship was also stolen.

Since the incident, the vicar of St James, Rev Ian Enticott said there had been an outpouring of support from across the North West for the church and charity group Hyndburn Helpers, which organises regular meetings and drop-in sessions there to help the homeless and those in need.

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The break-in is thought to have happened sometime between Wednesday, January 10 and Monday, January 15 at the church, off Cannon Street.

Police are currently investigating the callous theft but no arrests have been made.

Rev Enticott is now issuing a plea to the thieves to return what they stole, rather than getting rid of it for what may be just a fraction of its worth.

Lisa Canning, from The Hyndburn Helpers charity, pictured with empty boxes after burglars stolen thousands of food items.

The vicar, who is also area dean of Accrington, said: “I’m experiencing a mixture of emotions today – sadness because of what has happened – a theft of food and clothing destined for the most vulnerable in society.

“But I’m also thankful for the generosity of friends and strangers who have been calling with offers of help and assistance. They have been coming in from all over the North West, from a foodbank in Manchester to a church in Maghull, Liverpool and the Salvation Army in Preston.

“I have also had many calls from individuals across Lancashire who have heard the news and want to help out in some way. It is very heartening.”

Rev Enticott added: “At the same time I call on the people who carried out the raid to examine their consciences and bring the food and clothing back to us.

“It’s impossible to give an exact figure on the value of everything stolen. It may be in the thousands and the thieves will only get a fraction of that as they try to get rid of it all.”

If you want to support the church and Hyndburn Helpers replenish their stocks you can make a donation at any bank using the sort code 200972 and account number 73994295 or contact the group on the Hyndburn Helpers Facebook group.