Gifts for needy families are stolen, replenished

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 2, 2011 - 8:12 PM

A theft of Christmas gifts for needy families is drawing a heartfelt community response.

A piece of Christmas goodwill went out the window this week in Golden Valley, but an army of elves stepped in to save the day for people who have had a tough year.

Sometime between Wednesday night and early Thursday, thieves smashed a window at the Family Partnership and grabbed what they could from $3,500 worth of wrapped Christmas gifts intended for needy families in north Minneapolis.

"They didn't knock out enough window to get in, but they were reaching through to grab what would fit and unwrapping some to see if they were of value," said Annie Lewis, the group's communications director.

"It was very sad and kind of threw everybody for a loop."

Family Partnership, at 1501 Xerxes Av. N., provides services such as counseling and early childhood programs. Every holiday season the group runs a gift drive for needy client families. This year, 150 families were identified for help.

On Wednesday, bags of wrapped gifts collected by Donaldson Co. were stored in a room that has a window looking out onto a parking lot. Between 9:15 p.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. Thursday, the thieves struck.

Lewis estimated the loss at a bit under $1,000, including some play therapy toys that are used in classes and had to be tossed because they were pierced by broken glass.

The theft struck especially hard this year, Lewis said, because the Family Partnership had trouble rounding up enough donors for all 150 families. It may have been the tough times, or a glut of competition for charity, she said, but 20 families had no sponsors.

On Thursday, KARE-11 ran a story on the loss, and the elves went to work. Because some people can't afford to adopt an entire family, the Family Partnership put on its website a list of needed items. By Thursday afternoon, the loss had been covered and seven additional families had holiday gifts.

"It's one of those stories you hate to hear, but the outpouring of goodness that comes from this makes your soul feel pretty good," Lewis said. "There are good people out there who want to do the right thing."

Golden Valley police are investigating the theft. For a list of items that the Family Partnership is seeking for families, go to www.startribune.com/a864.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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