Donations are already pouring in to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society, as a sympathetic public learns about the theft of the society’s safe.
Early Tuesday morning, thieves cut through an exterior wall to access the safe in the society office at the Albion Fairgrounds. The safe contained approximately $10,000 in gift cards for families in need over the holiday season.
By Wednesday morning, the society had recouped those funds and more, said society chair Lorraine Bates.
She was on radio programs both Tuesday and Wednesday telling the story. The audience for one Vancouver radio station raised $11,800 in hours. Another single donor came forward with $10,000.
Bates said she was called Wednesday morning to come and pick up a cheque from Maple Ridge Chrysler, for another $10,000.
“We’re all a community here, and especially a non-profit society like that – it’s a great cause,” said dealer principal Kris Laughton. “We just want to give back to the community.”
Bates has been moved by the outpouring of generosity, which still continues, following what could have been a devastating theft for her group.
“It’s not just gift cards, it’s the difference between a smile or tears on Christmas morning,” she said.
The society provided Christmas for some 400 families last year, giving $75 to $100 worth of gifts for each child and a food voucher for Christmas dinner – including enough for some Christmas treats. The kids also get donated books, puzzles, clothes, and more.
This year, the number of families in need could double during the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn, estimates Bates. She bases that estimate on 700 families already being helped by the Friends in Need Food Bank.
“I’m thinking it’s going to be 800 families by the time Christmas rolls around.”
The demand will be high, as much as double, but the robbery appears to have actually given the society an early boost in its fundraising.
“This is such a good start… it’s amazing,” said Bates. “I had no idea Christmas angels came out before Halloween.”
Const. Julie Klaussner said police are looking for any information that may be helpful.
Early RCMP investigation suggests a black pick-up truck might be involved as one was seen leaving the area at a high rate of speed around the time of the incident, at 5:19 a.m.
“If you were out walking your dog at the time, possibly have dash camera footage or video surveillance of anything suspicious in the area please contact the police,” she said.
Witnesses are asked to contact Const. Vandelft at Ridge Meadows RCMP, 604-463-6251 and reference file #2020-20784.
Alternatively, anyone with information can call CRIME STOPPERS at 1-800-222-8477 or leave a TIP online at www.solvecrime.ca.
– With files from Ronan O’Doherty