DANVERS — The day after word got out that someone had stolen up to $4,000 worth of donations for Toys for Tots from a storage container at the Andover Street home of a Korean War veteran and dedicated volunteer, people and businesses from all over stepped up.
A room at the police station on Ash Street began to fill with new, unwrapped toys.
Police Sgt. Olivia Silva said yesterday morning that the station was getting lots of calls from those who wanted to give toys or send money to replace them.
Fire Capt. Kenneth Reardon said the Fire Department on High Street, which has been collecting toys for Toys for Tots for about 10 years, has been busy accepting toys.
“There has been a steady stream of people donating money and unwrapped toys throughout the day,” said Reardon, who said he could not say whether the uptick in donations was a result of people trying to replace the stolen toys. Word of the theft, however, probably brought to mind the need for toys for less fortunate children at Christmas, he said.
Lt. William Carleton said police are still investigating the theft, which took place sometime Wednesday evening. The reaction to the crime was summed up in one word on the department’s Facebook page: “Horrible!”
Online reaction quickly turned to those wanting to help. The Police Department’s Twitter feed showed that people are committed to replacing the toys, with several saying they had placed orders for toys online and were shipping them to the police department.
The donations were reportedly stolen when a storage container was broken into at the home of Bertram Russell, a former police officer in his 80s. He’s been collecting toys for the program for 20 years. Police only have the description of a large, dark-colored late model vehicle as being involved.
Russell had at first thought a Marine was loading more toys into the storage unit before the car took off on Route 114 heading west toward Middleton, according to an account given by Raymond Jalbert, the commandant of the Essex County Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Russell later discovered the container’s lock was missing. The incident was reported to police at 1 p.m. Thursday.
Jalbert has said four large boxes of toys were stolen. His initial estimate was a couple hundred toys were stolen, but the exact number is not known.
“Actually, he’s holding up pretty well,” Jalbert said of Russell, who also works at the Danvers Y. “We’ve had an outpouring of support from the local families...It’s incredible.”
Local businesses are pitching in, too. Jennifer Schylling, an owner of Green Elephant Toys on Elm Street, said “a huge donation pile” of toys grew in a corner of the store yesterday as people came in to replace the stolen donations. The store is selling donated toys at cost, “so, basically, we are not making a cent,” she said.
“Schylling Toys in Rowley has donated a couple of pallets,” she added.
Russell and Jalbert visited Green Elephant yesterday.
“He (Russell) came in and kind of thanked us for what we are doing,” she said, saying he was in tears at the community’s generosity.
Auto dealer Brian Kelly, a Danvers native and president and founder of Kelly Automotive Group, is also stepping up, said his son-in-law, Brian Heney, the group’s director of operations. The plan is to have Kelly’s five grandchildren pick out replacement toys this weekend equal to the amount that was stolen, Heney said.
“Whoever did this is going to spend some serious time in purgatory,” Heney said.
For those looking to shop for toy donations online, toys can be shipped to the police station at 120 Ash St., Danvers, MA 01923. Those wishing to give monetary donations can do so by making out a check to “Local 2038” and dropping it off or mailing it to the attention of firefighter Brian Barry, Danvers Fire Headquarters, 64 High St., Danvers.
The Danvers police Facebook page also asks those shopping at Wal-Mart this Saturday and Sunday to pick up an extra toy.
They will be at the store on Brooksby Village Drive, just off Route 114 (Andover Street), from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a fire truck collecting toys for the program.