Thief Steals Gifts for Homeless, Needy Kids

Christmas tree, decorations also stolen

A real-life Grinch broke into a garage owned by the Salvation Army last week in northwest suburban Elgin and stole Christmas presents meant for needy and homeless children, authorities said.

Salvation Army employees discovered the burglary Wednesday as they were getting items from a garage on the property, 316 Douglas Ave., in preparation for a Christmas party, police reports stated.

Twenty 5-inch television sets -- with an estimated value of $50 apiece -- were taken, along with 30 backpacks filled with school supplies, police said.

"Those are small black and white televisions, used as part of a children's gift distribution for next week," Major Ken Nicolai said. "That will be that many fewer gifts to put on the table for parents to choose from. We have more than 1,000 families we are serving. We are hoping families don't go unserved."

A Christmas tree and decorations also were stolen, police said.

"Unless it was someone who really needed one themselves, I'm not sure why you would take that," Nicolai said. "It's a sad thing, because we do get requests for Christmas trees and decorations. We never have enough Christmas trees to give out to everyone who requests one. It's kind of sad."

Nicolai is also frustrated because "if somebody really needs something, we find ways to get someone something, whether it's toys or whatever. It's frustrating because there is so much need right now and we are trying to collect every item we can for the poor," he said.

His spirits were lifted a bit later in the week when someone dropped two gold coins into a local Salvation Army kettle.

The gold coins were collected outside of the Jewel-Osco in Barrington, a Salvation Army spokeswoman said. The coins were in mint condition and were wrapped in a dollar bill. The coins are estimated to be worth as much as $8,000 because one of the coins is an "error piece" due to a flaw in the area where the date is stamped.

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