View Full Version : Thieves threaten Marines' toy drive

11-11-08, 11:07 AM
Thieves threaten Marines' toy drive
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Of Our Lebanon County Bureau

LEBANON -- Some grinches appear to really have it in for the Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots program.

Three recent burglaries at the league's storage building are threatening the organization's ability to make sure children from needy families receive toys this Christmas.

John Gingrich, an organizer of the annual Lebanon drive, said burglars took about 50 bicycles, $2,600 worth of toys, $1,000 worth of tools and office supplies. The most recent burglary occurred between 5 p.m. Thursday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday, he said.

"They just came in and helped themselves," Gingrich said.

The toys are distributed to needy families Dec. 18-19 at the Pennsylvania National Guard Armory through the Operation Santa program. Last year, 895 families received toys, Gingrich said.

"It's definitely going to put a damper on our overall program, but it's just a minor setback. We're going to work twice as hard -- not that we don't put enough effort into it as it is," Gingrich said.

Locks were changed after the first two break-ins, Gingrich said, and a deadbolt lock is now in place. For security reasons, he would not disclose the location of the building, which is owned by the city of Lebanon.

Last weekend, burglars took electronics such as MP3 players and handheld games from 35 boxes of items donated to the league at a Nov. 2 drive in the Reading area.

Gingrich estimated that $2,000 worth of toys were taken, plus $600 in toys that league members had just purchased, as well as tools and office supplies.

No toy donations collected in the Lebanon area in the first week of November were taken, Gingrich said.

In the first burglary, six to eight weeks ago, about 20 bicycles were taken. In the second break-in six weeks ago, 15 bicycles, tools and an air compressor were taken, Gingrich said.

Most of the bicycles stolen had been donated by Wal-Mart. The remainder had been donated by police departments from among those found in their areas.

Even with the losses, there still are about 250 bicycles to distribute, Gingrich said.

"It's not an issue of how many you have. It's the idea they steal from you to take away from somebody that really needs it," he said.

"The biggest victim is not the Marine Corps League but several hundred children who may be slighted because of this," said Lebanon Police Chief Bill Harvey, who urged anyone with information on the thefts to call police at 272-6611.

BARBARA MILLER: 832-2090 or barbmiller@patriot-news.com


The Marine Corps League's Toys for Tots program will collect toys and cash on Thanksgiving weekend at the Lebanon Valley Mall and the Lebanon Wal-Mart. A collection will take place Dec. 3 at the Golden Corral.
To arrange for other donations, e-mail John Gingrich at jeg.toys@verizon.net.