, Salem, MA

December 22, 2010

Community helps out pantry after toy theft

By Tom Dalton
Staff writer

SALEM — The final scene from the Christmas classic "It's a Wonderful Life" was played out yesterday inside a Franklin Street warehouse.

A middle-aged couple walked into the St. Joseph/Harvest of Hope food pantry at 13 Franklin St. with a check for $500.

An elderly man and woman handed over a dozen Walmart gift cards.

Countless others came in with toys, clothing and other gifts for needy children in Salem.

"I've gone from panic to elation," said Veann Campbell, the pantry director, who put out a call for help Monday after learning of the robbery over the weekend from a Toys for Tots storage facility in Burlington.

The pantry, which hands out toys to 800 families, gets most of its gifts from the charity.

Toys for Tots also received an outpouring of support in response to the theft of an estimated $15,000 worth of toys, most of them for older children. As of early yesterday, the program had collected $65,000 in donations, including a check for $15,000 from the CEO of a South Shore software company, according to the state police, who work closely with the charity.

The St. Joseph pantry is scheduled to go to Burlington this morning to pick up its shipment of gifts.

"I'm just floored by all of this," Campbell said. "It's wonderful. ... I think we'll be OK."