CANTON — At what was the start of a prosperous season, the Canton Church and Community Giving Tree Program was robbed of about $4,000 worth of children’s pajamas and other gifts, program officials said.
The theft from the basement of the organization’s 7 Main St. space was discovered Thursday and already, the community has shown generosity, Giving Tree Director Frances Bailey said.
“It was such a bad feeling to be robbed,” Ms. Bailey said. “We’re an organization that would have given it away, that’s what we do.”
Canton Village Police have been notified and Ms. Bailey said if anyone notices someone with a large supply of pajamas or Lego sets, or has any information that could help locate the stolen goods, they should notify the police.
An arm of the Church and Community Program, the Giving Tree had 167 families that applied last year taking part and the number of children was 430.
“We provide warm clothing toys, books, and PJs and hand knitted hats, gloves, scarves that a local group spends the year knitting,” Mrs. Bailey said. “Most of our families don’t have jobs that pay well enough for much extra, so they can stay alive, but when it comes to buying Christmas presents they are going to have a difficult time. So what we try to do is provide something so that the children who might not otherwise have nice things at Christmas can have them.”
Additionally, the Giving Tree Program is continuing a newer tradition, where they have partnered with the grocery store Save A Lot, giving each family a food certificate so they can go to Save A Lot and supplement their holiday meals with a few things that they can’t normally have.
This year, the Giving Tree Program picked up on a now-defunct Ogdensburg program, PJ’s for Xmas, with the idea that not only should every child get a pair of pajamas, but a book as well, which would be in addition to anything donated for the parents that applied to be part of the program.
All of those things were stored in a dark, back corner of the cellar of the Church and Community Thrift Shop, where the space also houses many other donated clothing and is shared with St. Mary’s Church Thrift Shop.
“But so much of what we had been storing, all of it in fact, for PJs, was taken,” Ms. Bailey said. “But just between last Thursday and now, people are coming forward and donating pajamas, any size for a child or a teenager, and they are donating money so we can buy pajamas for the sizes that we don’t get, so it has just brought out an amazing amount of goodness in this community.”
CCP Director Connie Jenkins said the theft was a “terrible, bad surprise, that someone would steal Christmas gifts from a charity.”
“It’s just a real gut punch and you know nobody had 60 kids of different sizes,” Ms. Jenkins said. “Somebody obviously took the stuff to sell. It’s not even like somebody was stealing it for an orphanage so they had pajamas, this was a thief, but since that has happened, people have been outstanding in stepping forward to offer help and support. So good people are making up the difference and we really, really appreciate it.”
A lot of people are taking up collections and pajamas are already starting to come through the door, both women said.
All the donations will be collected on Dec. 8 and will be brought to the Canton Volunteer Fire Station where they will be organized and sorted and, by the following Friday and Saturday, they are ready for the people who have registered for the Giving Tree to come and pick up the gifts for their children.
“We do get support from Toys for Tots, but we also have incredibly generous people in the community who provide a great deal of what we have to give away to the children,” Ms. Bailey said. “What always strikes me is how happy the parents are when they are picking up the gifts for their children.“
Anyone interested in donating to the Giving Tree Program can do so by visiting Canton and surrounding area retailers, which will have the Giving Tree tags listing what the gift to purchase would be. If it is clothing, a size will be listed as well. After donors purchase the gift, they are to bring the tag and the new, unwrapped gift to the Church and Community Thrift Store at 7 Main St.
Donations in the form of a check can be made out to Church and Community Giving Tree can be sent to Church and Community Program, Box 55, Canton 13617
“We will get it and be very happy,” Ms. Bailey said. “Because not everybody likes to go out and buy the stuff but they would like to help and that’s perfect. Then we buy what we know the children need and that works out very well.”