Thieves break into St. Anne's Church, steal toys
By Bonnie Adams,? Government Editor
Shrewsbury – The St. Anne's Church community is reeling after discovering that thieves broke into a locked shed and stole nearly 100 items that were collected as part of the church's annual Christmas toy drive for children in need. Although the church officials are “dismayed and heartbroken,” the Rev. John Foley, the church's pastor, said he is confident that “God will provide.”
When families sign their children up for the toy drive, they also list a few items that the child would like. ?Tags with that information are then put on a “Giving Tree” on the church's altar. Parishioners then select a tag, purchase the items and then return them to the church. Although it is early in the Christmas season, so many gifts had already been collected, Foley said, that the decision was made to move them out of the church and into a locked shed behind the church.
Elaine LeBlanc, the director of St. Anne's Human Services, said the theft was discovered when another church official went to bring additional gifts out to the shed late Tuesday afternoon.
“It was a mess,” she said. “They cleared out almost all the presents and left paper and debris all over the place.”
Nearly 100 gifts were taken, including some gift cards that were donated. Although church officials are not certain yet the full extent of the theft, it is estimated to be about $2,000-$3,000.
There are 297 families, with an estimated 350 children, who signed up to receive gifts from the toy drive this year, LeBlanc said. But there are always families who sign-up after the official registration period, she said, who are not turned away.
“We always have generic gifts that we can use because we want to make sure every child is taken care of,” she said. “But those were taken too.”
Foley did not want to speculate who was responsible for the theft, which he called “devastating,” ?but instead choose to look forward to the next step. He feels confident, he said, that the community will come to the aid of the church.
“I am not worried about people's generosity,” he said. “We have time to figure this out. We will make sure every child is taken care of. We'sl be like Santa Claus – checking our list twice!”
The story had spread quickly on social media, he noted. Calls had been coming in with offers of help and parishioners had already started dropping off items, he added. Additionally, the Pawtucket, R.I.-based company, Hasbro, offered to donate 300 toys and games.
Brandon Keough, a community relations manager with the company, said every attempt will be made to match up the donated items with the requested items from the kids.
“When we learned of this news, we were saddened as well,” he said. “We decided that we wanted to jump into action and help the church recover from this theft. We hope this helps to make the holidays a little bit brighter for the kids.”
Shrewsbury's Spring Street School has also offered help. The school has been collecting items for the drive and has asked students and families to consider donating gift cards which St. Anne's officials can then use to purchase gifts.
The church is located at 130 Boston Turnpike (Route 9). It currently has 1,700 families from both Shrewsbury and parts of Worcester.
“It's always busy here,” LeBlanc said. “There are people coming in and out all the time.”
“It's heart-breaking,” she added. “The volunteers had worked so hard on this – to have this happen is just unbelievable. But I know we will get through this. It will all be ok.”
The Shrewsbury Police Department has requested that anyone with information contact Detective Michael R. McGinnis of the Shrewsbury Police Detective Bureau at 508-845-4681.
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