ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A handful of people who volunteered to serve Christmas dinner to the homeless at the New Life Evangelistic Center in downtown St. Louis said they were socked with large tow bills.
"All of us went down there out of the goodness of our heart to feed and clothe and help the poor and that's what we got for it," said Dennis Asher.
The cars were parked in the YMCA's parking lot on Locust Street, about one and a half blocks away from the NLEC.
Asher said another volunteer put down his credit card and paid for Asher's and one other woman's tow bill, but others weren't so fortunate.
"Some of the other ladies came by today and said they used their rent money, so we helped them a little bit towards their rent." said NLEC assistant director Ray Redlich.
Redlich says the NLEC didn't tell volunteers to park in the YMCA lot, but street parking was full that day and several volunteers believed that the YMCA would not tow - since the facility was closed on Christmas Day.
The YMCA of Greater St. Louis says it can not allow public parking on the private lot because it is complying with a city ordinance that requires certain lots to keep attendants on duty when cars are parked on it (this was instituted following a rash of car break-ins in last year).
The YMCA sent the following statement:
We recognize the inconvenience and frustration caused when one’s car is towed, however in order to comply with city ordinances, we cannot allow public parking on our private lot at any time. When our facility is closed, we do not have an attendant in place to monitor the safety and security of the parking lot and any cars parked within it.
To communicate the policy, we have posted several signs throughout our parking lot stating that it is to be used by Y members only during operating hours and warning that violators will be towed. After hours, an independent towing company handles monitoring the parking lot to ensure the lot is only used as authorized. The Y receives no monetary benefit from the tow company.
The tow company owner told News 4 that a total of seven cars were towed and that the tow truck driver was just doing his job.
But, Asher says the $440 tow bill nearly put him in a bind and he's thankful to the good samaritan.
"I would have lost my car if it hadn't been for this man."