SANTA CRUZ — Unknown suspects stole toys from two Santa Cruz County Toys for Tots donation sites last week, an estimated loss of 100 gifts or more, said regional coordinator Delilah Valadez.
“Culprits drove up to two sites, one in Aptos and the other in the city of Santa Cruz, and made off with gifts placed into collection bins,” Valadez said in a release. “The thieves emptied labeled bins and just took what they wanted.”
The thefts were discovered Nov. 24 and 26, when drivers went to pick up at their usual sites in Santa Cruz and Aptos and found only empty bins.
“When we looked into it, we found out that well, it was just the worst news that we could get about our toys. It was just so early in our season,” Valadez said. “If it had just been once, that would have been hard to take. But twice.”
Valadez urges Toys for Tots partners to ask collection bin drivers to show their IDs to avoid a similar problem in the future. Drivers are typically off-duty firefighters or volunteers with a badge or corresponding identification, and tend to follow the same routes, she said.
For their part, partner collection sites are “determined to make up the losses,” she said. She said it was unfortunate that the gifts stolen were from the earliest donors who might have been taking care of others before they even did their own gift shopping.
“I guess that’s how you beat the Grinch,” Valadez said. “God bless those donors who dropped by before Thanksgiving. People are so filled with goodness and happiness.”
The group, comprised of a network of volunteers and nonprofit personnel, has less than two weeks left before it needs to begin assemble, sort and wrap collected toys in time to distribute the gifts before Christmas. Volunteers are needed to usher the process along, doing everything from building bikes to preparing orders for partner agencies.
As one of several incentives for gift donors, Toys for Tots will partner with Hotel Paradox to host a Gingerbread House Workshop on Dec. 14. A new gift valued at $10 or more and preregistration is required to attend the event, which is targeting families with kids ages 5 to 12. Santa Cruz police officers, Santa Cruz County sheriffs deputies, local firefighters, US Marines, Santa Cruz Warriors, Mrs. Claus and Santa are all invited.
With so many causes visible this time of year, Valadez urged residents to be on the lookout for scams or imposters. Toys for Tots asks that anyone with information about these stolen toys, or if anyone witnesses any suspicious activity at donation locations to immediately alert on-site personnel and/or the police, as well as Toys for Tots representatives at [email protected].
Santa Cruz Toys for Tots donor incentives
Who: Orchard Supply Hardware, Watsonville and Capitola.
What: 15 percent discount off entire purchase with a donation of a new toy valued over $10.
When: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Who: Holy Smokes BBQ/Catering, Capitola Road and 41st Avenue.
What: An entire barbecue meal with a donation of each new toy valued over $10 while supplies last.
When: Noon. —— (c)2014 Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) Visit the Santa Cruz Sentinel (Scotts Valley, Calif.) at www.santacruzsentinel.com Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC AMX-2014-12-02T09:56:00-05:00