A group collecting tens of thousands of dollars worth of gifts to help families this holiday season is desperate for answers after an entire shipping container was stolen from an Englewood lot the organization was storing the items in.
The Kidz Korna organization was storing the items in a 53-foot container, donated to the charity by CSX Railroad, for its annual Winter Wonderland Driveby and Gift Giveaway Tour, according to a press release from the group.
On Nov. 19, the group was shocked to learn that the container, which had toys, new clothes, shoes, essential items, household appliances and other items, had been stolen.
“People are relying on us,” founder Delece Williams said. “This year we were more excited because we had a lot of stuff for teenagers. We had jewelry donated to us. We had clothes, all kinds of brand new stuff.”
Now, all that remains of the container are rusty chains, which the group believes someone used to load up the container and to drive it away.
“One of the neighbors stated that they saw a tow truck that came in on that Friday,” Williams said. “But because they had the necessary equipment to move it, he didn’t think anyone was stealing it.”
The container was over 80% full of toys and other items, Williams said, and the items inside were worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Williams filed a police report, and Chicago police say they are investigating the theft.
Sharon Preston with the organization Flags of the Heart says that they had donations in the container as well.
“We had over 500 brand new coats in there, as well as brand new toys,” she said.
The donations were destined to go to local families, along with other organizations that Kidz Korna partners with.
Flags of the Heart, an organization supporting veterans and their families, was one of those groups.
“It hurts real bad, because we took a lot of money out of our own pockets and bought stuff at the end of the year when they mark the toys and stuff down,” Preston said.
The pair is working with other groups to try to recoup as many donations as they can, but with less than a month until Christmas, they are feeling the pressure.
“I got so many people that are relying on us each year that I just don’t know how to tell them I don’t have the stuff right now,” Williams said.