CHICAGO – More than 300 homeless children are without Christmas presents this holiday season after a Chicago church was ransacked by thieves who stole baby dolls and hundreds of other donated toys.
"When I walked into the sanctuary, my heart was broken," said Pastor Virgil Jones of the Sanctuary Family Worship Center on the city's south side.
In addition to the toys donated by church members and collected for Toys for Tots, more than $10,000 in equipment, such as space heaters, a piano and stereo equipment were taken -- even the grape juice that is offered during weekly services.
With less than a week until the annual Christmas Eve party, Jones said he prays the thieves will repent and return the stolen items donated for more than 300 children.
"I'm praying and hoping that we can recover these toys," Jones said.
Police say thieves broke into the church's doors and bypassed the alarm system. Officer Wayne Frisbie said investigators found the church door ajar when they arrived on scene Wednesday.
Jones said a police technician told him investigators recovered a beer bottle from the sanctuary with fingerprints that may provide clues that could help find the thieves. They also left behind paint-stained footprints.
Frisbie said he couldn't comment further since it is an ongoing investigation.
The church, located about four blocks from a women's shelter, spent the last 12 years hosting homeless and needy children for the annual party.
The church, which opened in May 2001, is located at 711 W. 120th St. Donations are being accepted between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.