Pastor Steven Allman stands next to the oil tank at Leeds Community Church. Allman said Tuesday that someone drained all the oil during the past week. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

LEEDS — When parishioners came to Leeds Community Church on Sunday morning, they found themselves in a cold sanctuary.

A parishioner checked the outside oil tank and found it was empty, despite being filled last year.

The church only uses a small amount of oil to heat the sanctuary for Sunday services each week; the rest of the church uses electric heating.

Pastor Steven Allman said they are not sure exactly when the oil was taken or how much. He guessed it happened sometime last week.

The 200-gallon oil tank isn’t locked, and there was no sign of a leak.

“We are very saddened and our prayers go out to those so desperate that they had to resort to draining our outside fuel tank,” according to a Facebook post from the church. “If only they would have come to us for their needs.”


The church has a food pantry and a discretionary account to help community members in need.

“A lot of people are afraid to come forward, I think, or they don’t know about us,” he said.

Still, Allman said he has seen more requests for assistance than when he joined the church in March 2019. The food pantry in particular saw an uptick in requests this past month.

Leeds Community Church Pastor Steven Allman stands inside the sanctuary Tuesday afternoon, two days after he learned someone drained the outside oil tank, leaving the church without heat. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“I’ve had a couple people come to me over the last year for help with Christmas presents and personal expenses, medical expenses that kind of thing,” he said. “Whereas my first couple of years here, I really didn’t have anyone asking me for help. So, it seems like there are a lot of people out there who have needs.”

After the church posted its plight on Facebook, community members immediately stepped up to help pay to refill the tank.

“It’s not even all, in fact, it’s mostly not even church members,” Allman said. “It’s just people in the community that value what we do.”


Nick Harrington of Leeds isn’t a member of the church, but he’s been an active fundraiser on Facebook.

“Who will match me in helping fill their tank back up?”  he wrote. “Not only the church, but food pantry as well. I’ll give $200. Come on guys, let’s show them our town is better than this.”

“I personally think it’s the right thing to do with all the craziness going on in the last few years and all that Leeds Community Church does for the Leeds community, that’s a horrible act,” Harrington shared over Facebook Messenger. “They would do anything for anyone in need, and I think it’s our time to step up and help them when they might need it.”

The gym at the Leeds Community Church has been converted to a temporary food bank. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

Between the online donations and the money he is collecting, he believes the church has raised enough money to fill their tank, which will happen Thursday, according to church elder Larry Jewett.

“We see it as our mission to help people in the community any way we can,” Allman said. “I think of this as the church for the unchurched, we welcome everyone. We’ve got a lot of people who have walked away from other churches and other denominations that end up here. It’s a really caring congregation that helps people and just wants to grow in faith together.”

Oil prices have skyrocketed in the past several months, just recently reaching record rates.


According to, a gallon of heating oil in the Lewiston-Auburn and western Maine regions costs an average of $5.13 per gallon.

Prices are predicted to rise after the U.S. banned Russian oil imports Tuesday in response to the ongoing war in Ukraine.

At this rate, it will cost over $1,000 to refill the church’s tank. Allman said the church will look to secure its oil tank to prevent future thefts.

Those wishing to support Leeds Community Church can donate online or call 207-524-5444.

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