ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) –Tiptoeing through broken glass and debris, Joseph’s Coat Director Cheryl Stern knows much more than physical property was hurt when a car slammed through the wall and took off early Thursday morning.

“We are a free store, providing goods and services to people in need,” said Stern.

Investigators with the St. Paul Police Department think a driver crashed into the building and was somehow able to back up and drive off sometime before 2 a.m. on Thursday morning, leaving behind a trail of destruction.

The nonprofit helps hundreds of people each week, offering essential items like clothes and dishes for free.

City officials were forced to condemn part of Joseph’s Coat because the damage was so extensive.

Bill Culbertson volunteers at Joseph’s Coat and just happened to notice the plywood boards outside as he drove by.

With the building condemned, he doesn’t know when the charity will be able to serve the community again.

“This is kind of a lifeline for a lot of people… It breaks my heart, a lot of people really depend on this place,” said Culbertson.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, the driver of the car had not been found.

Structural engineers still need to take a look at the building to see if it can be repaired, so it’s still unclear when the charity will be fully operational again. But Stern insists it will re-open.

If you want to help out Joseph’s Coat or donate items, visit their website.

Mary McGuire

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