Thieves steal toys for needy kids

MT. LAUREL, N.J. - November 20, 2009

For the past 13 years, John Atkinson, a volunteer coordinator at Grace Bible Church in Mt. Laurel, has organized the collection of thousands of shoeboxes.

It's part of Operation Christmas Child, an international effort to ship shoeboxes filled with toys and goodies to needy children in Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia.

So imagine Atkinson's heartbreak when he discovered this week that someone had broken in to a tractor trailer storing cartons and cartons of the shoeboxes ready to be shipped overseas.

"These gifts will go to over 100 countries and these gifts that they're handed out, the children may only get that 1 box in their whole lifetime," Atkinson said.

Police are investigating, but some have their suspicions.

"Kids earlier in the day, just looking around and they probably saw him putting the lock on, probably thinking something valuable's in there," volunteer Tom Bramley said.

For some reason, the thieves took off with only a handful of the shoeboxes. Everyone's thankful for that, but still upset.

"I think that is just terrible. These are tiny little shoeboxes for children who have nothing-and they take that!" Elda Sebastian of Hamilton said.

"They should really be ashamed of themselves because they're stealing from people who are trying to help others," Charlotte Tule of Marlton said.

The theft is a disappointment, but there's no time to dwell on it because there's work to do. Grace Bible is the main collection point for Central and South Jersey and the deadline for drop-offs is Monday.

This site alone will collect about 22,000 shoeboxes and organizers are still welcoming volunteers and donations.

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.