Updated: June 24, 2013 2:16PM
As Mary Marino read a story in the Sun-Times on Tuesday about a South Side church being vandalized and its antique organ damaged, she first felt “awful” — then realized she could help.
Last weekend, a deacon at the International Harbor of Grace Church in the 9700 block of South Avenue L in Chicago made the disheartening discovery as he was preparing for services, police said.
Gang symbols and graffiti were found on the walls, floors and pews, several of which were pulled from their mounts, police News Affairs Officer Jose Estrada said. An antique organ was smashed and keys pulled from the instrument.
A smaller church organ and three computers used to educate children were stolen. A porcelain baptismal pool was damaged with items thrown inside; and broken glass and drug paraphernalia were found on the floor.
“I thought it was ridiculous,” said Marino, of Homer Glen. “You don’t go into a church (and do this). Who would do this?”
Particularly inexplicable were the damage and theft of the organs, she said.
“What’s an organ going to do for them? It just touched my heart,” Marino said.
That’s when she realized what she could do. Marino has had an organ worthy of any church in her home for the past 30 years, and had been looking, unsuccessfully, to give it away.
“I’m looking at this (story) and thought, ‘I’ve got an organ that’s been in my home for 30 years and I’ve played and played and I’m done,’ ” she said.
The organ was listed on Craigslist for three months, with no takers.
“I told my daughter, ‘I know what I’m doing tomorrow — if they can pick the organ up it’s theirs,’ ” she said.
She said she didn’t want any money for it, “I wanted someone to enjoy it just like I did for so many years. (And now) I found somebody.”
It’s fitting the organ may have a new home in a church, she said.
“My grandfather was a preacher, my brother is a preacher. This is where it belongs. It belongs in a church,” she said.
She said the church’s pastor “was just speechless.” While the church has a lot of work to do and the police investigation is still open, “I told him, ‘It’s here for you. It’s not going anywhere,’ ” she said.
“He was like, ‘I can’t believe what you’re telling me.’ He said he’d get back to me in a week. He wants it, but he doesn’t know when.”
The organ, she said, is a U-shaped Lowrey theatre organ, with two rows of key tabs.
“It’s a big organ,” Marino said, like a pipe organ without the pipes. “It’s a beautiful cedar organ, with foot pedals. It’s ready to go and enjoy.”
Marino said she and her 80-year-old husband, who is disabled, don’t have much to give in the way of money. They have medical bills and other expenses, but “So what? It’s only money. If I can see a smile on someone else’s face, I’ll do it.”
Besides, she said, “I just know what it is to need a little help.”
She encourages others to do the same with things they no longer use as they once did.
“Don’t throw it away,” she said. “Give it to somebody who can use it.
“I don’t think I’m very special,” she said Wednesday. “I’m a senior citizen, it’s my time to give. That’s what it’s all about, helping people.”
Police ask anyone with information on the vandalism to contact Area South detectives at (312) 747-8272.
Sun-Times Media Wire