A thief walked into a north suburban church Monday afternoon and strolled away with gifts collected for needy children.
Pastor Ellen Arthur of St. Stephen Lutheran Church, 1155 Hillside Ave., in Antioch said the culprit got away with $700 in gifts, including toys, clothing and coats placed under the church's Christmas tree.
"You bounce between anger and just total disgust that somebody would take kids' Christmas presents," said Pastor Ellen, standing in the church lobby next to where the donated gifts had been nestled beneath a potted tree.
Arthur said the church was open when the gifts were taken sometime between noon and 4 p.m. Monday. They were items on a wish list for two-dozen needy children, infants to 18 year olds, who are part of the Adopt-a-Family program at Open Arms Mission in Antioch.
"The families that we help are truly making the decision, do we shop for our kids or do we pay our electric bill?" said Marytherese Ambacher, the organization's director.
The mission feeds an average of 322 families a week in Antioch, Lake Villa and Lindenhurst. Ambacher says that's an icrease in the number of families, from an average of 257 a week recorded last year.
St. Stephen Lutheran already is receiving donations from neighbors who heard about the Christmas Grinch. Even after starting over again, Pastor Ellen said she is confident the church will be able to deliver gifts to the children.
"I'm sure that, to be a parent, not able to provide anything for your kids at Christmas, has got to be gut-wrenching," said Pastor Ellen. "But now they'll have maybe even more then they had before!"
To make a donation to the church, call 847-395-3359.