NEW PORT RICHEY — For more than 30 years, Mike Long took meticulous care of his Silvertone guitar, a Christmas gift from his late father.
But last week, someone stole the Silvertone, two other guitars and an amplifier from the Fellowship Baptist Church at 5940 Massachusetts Ave. Long, who is the church's music director, and two others played the guitars in the church's orchestra each week.
Long, who was born without legs and uses a wheelchair, said the guitar is "like my wife." With no signs of forced entry into the church and no suspects, he didn't expect to see it again.
But Dustin Williams, the owner of one of the guitars, found them early Wednesday afternoon while checking with west Pasco pawn shops.
After several misses, Williams stopped at Silver Dollar Pawn at 5607 State Road 54. He described the guitars and amplifier to the owner. The owner paused, then pointed to a glass case.
"I leaned over the counter and said, 'Hey, that's my guitar!'" Williams said, laughing.
A woman had brought the guitars into the pawn shop earlier that day for $125, the pawn shop owner told Williams.
Williams called New Port Richey police, who took the guitars and amplifier into evidence. Police told Long he would get his Silvertone back in the near future.
"I had kind of resolved the fact that the chance was very slim," said Long. "You think the worst, and now the best has come to pass."
After the Times published a story Tuesday about the missing guitars, two people came forward with offers to help the church, Long said. One man donated an unused guitar and amplifier, and a member of a Tampa church offered to install a security system for free to prevent future burglaries.
"In a time when our church was down and out, the community jumped in and (lent) a hand," Williams said. "I will remember this for the rest of my life."
Nomaan Merchant can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6244.