WATSONVILLE, CA – A nonprofit organization in Santa Cruz County is out 100 toys after thieves recently stole donations straight out of the collection bins.
Santa's elves will soon be hard at work sorting toys for children to unwrap on Christmas Day. Their spirits are a little dampened after a Grinch stole the toys.
“We were and still remain a little stunned and really surprised,” said Delilah Valadez of Santa Cruz County Toys for Tots. “We've been doing this for 26 years here and that just doesn't happen.”
Valadez said the thieves took two entire bin's worth at two separate donation sites last week, one in Aptos and the other in Santa Cruz.
Volunteers discovered the thefts after the bins, which were full, were then found completely empty at pick-up time. The nonprofit isn't sure how the thieves made off with the toys but now they're taking extra steps to make sure it doesn't happen again.
“Our collection site partners are a lot more on the lookout,” said Valadez. “They have to be a lot more aggressive about asking for ID and they will do that. It's just not something they had to do before.”
The nonprofit gives thousands of toys to local pantries, shelters, and preschools that in turn hands them directly to families in need. Loaves & Fishes of Watsonville is one of the pantries.
“This is the only resource that they have to make their kids happy,” said Vicky Caballero of Loaves & Fishes.
Verenice Romero signed up to receive toys for the first time. Through a translator, she said she's hoping to get gifts for her three children including her 4-year-old son named Buddy, since her husband has had a hard time finding work.
“If they see other children getting toys and they don't get toys of course they'll be sad and wonder why,” said Romero.
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