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Burglars hit St. Paul restaurant, steal donations for homeless

Burglars targeted J. Selby's restaurant in St. Paul early last Saturday, stealing a safe that contained more than $1,300 designated to help those struggling at the Hiawatha homeless encampment in Minneapolis.

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Regulars at J. Selby's in St. Paul patronize the restaurant and its plant-based menu for reasons that reach beyond food. Owner Matt Clayton has built a business that is concerned about the world beyond its doors, by re-using and recycling, paying employees a fair working wage and saving natural resources that contribute to the health of the planet.

A free Thanksgiving event two weeks ago was to be part of that mission, with free-will donations targeted to help the homeless at the Hiawatha encampment. Clayton had more than $1,300 donated by 300 patrons that showed up between noon and 6 p.m., and was coordinating the handoff of funds when crooks broke into his restaurant early Saturday, December 1 and stole the safe. Prep cooks arriving for work around 5:15 a.m. at the establishment at 169 N. Victoria Street found the door smashed in. They went downstairs to the office and found it turned upside down, with the safe gone.

Surveillance video revealed that those responsible for the burglary fled the building less than three minutes before the work crew arrived.

Besides the money that was designated for the homeless was nearly $1,000 in tips that had been collected. J. Selby's asks customers not to tip as part of its living wage mission, but when they do leave money, it is pooled and given to charities selected by employees. The crooks also made off with a supply of blank checks, but Clayton closed the accounts before they could be used.

The owner is working with his insurance company in an effort to fix the damage to his restaurant and restore the stolen funds so he can donate them to the homeless. In the meantime there is a boarded-up door to remind him, as Clayton says, that someone's life is so desperate they would steal money targeted for those desperately in need.

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