STOCKTON — Deacon Stephen Bentley was elbow-deep in wrenches and wheels Thursday.
With the bike repair ministry of Saint John the Evangelist Church, Deacon Bentley is all about sustenance and salvation for Stockton souls in need.
“First thing they’ll ask is, ‘How much does it cost?’ And I says, ‘It’s free,'” Bentley said. “And you’ll see their eyes wide and open. ‘It’s free? Well, how do you guys stay in business?’ I says, ‘It’s all donation based.'”
His church is named for the man believed to have brought Jesus’ message to the world through the Gospel of John. But the deacon has his own message for those who have brought the worst of the world to his shop’s door.
“The break-ins have been very disheartening. We’ve had four since last June,” Bentley said.
Shop surveillance video shows the last two break-ins. The first was from 4 a.m. on Jan. 6, when one man in a dark hoodie and another in Golden State Warriors garb forced their way into the shop on East Miner Avenue to steal.
Four days later at 5:12 a.m., one man can be seen breaking in and grabbing a bike.
The place that’s under attack is called the HUB, which stands for Helping Urban Bicyclists. It’s meant for the homeless and others who have no other way to get around except on two wheels.
When the HUB has been hit by thieves in the past it has ended up being a double whammy.
“Unfortunately, one of the bikes that was stolen belonged to someone who eventually sued me for the value of their bike and that’s money out of our pocket,” Bentley said.
The loss of money and increasing aggravation since last June forced them to shut down for a week. Now, they are fighting to stay open in the face of the latest heists.
“We are there to give you what you want. You don’t have to break in and do that,” Bentley said. “You come in and talk to me. You come in and talk to us and we’ll do the best that we can to offer you the best services that we can.”
If you have any information about the break-ins, Stockton police want to hear from you.