Angels Save Holiday

12/10/2016
Christmas spirit
ANGELS: Toys donated for kids

`ANGELS’ SAVE HOLIDAY AFTER TOY THEFT AT WATERTOWN CHURCH
BY LARAINE WESCHLER
REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN

WATERTOWN – When Collin Sieracki read that 36 wrapped gifts intended for underprivileged children were stolen Monday from the First Congregational Church, he and his partner, Kyle Plourde, ran out and bought $500 worth of toys to replace those stolen. “I can work a little harder and if that’s what it takes to see a smile on a little child’s face, that’s what matters,” Sieracki said.

He wasn’t the only one that felt that way.

Donations poured in Wednesday as word about the theft spread on social media, according to Nancy Harrell, director of Christian Education at the church.

Every year, the church sponsors families from Wellmore Behavioral Health’s Nurturing Families Network. This year, they had 80 “angels” on a donation tree. Wellmore offers behavioral health services across 49 towns in Connecticut.

Harrell discovered the theft from the locked church on Monday and called police. At first, she said she was angry and upset.

“Why would someone do that? If they need help, all they have to do is come to the church,” Harrell said.

 

“All they had to do was ask.”

The anger was soon replaced with joy as donations started pouring in from all over the state.

“It was very moving and emotional,” Harrell said. “We were so overwhelmed and there was just such an outpouring of support.”

Besides the 36 wrapped gifts, the thief stole two big bags full of nearly 20 hand-crocheted and knitted baby blankets.

“The women of the church are furiously knitting away to try to replace those,” Harrell said.

The Watertown Police Benevolent Association was the first to bring toys for the “angels” on the tree. Halley’s Hope in New Canaan delivered over 80 stockings filled with hats, gloves, mittens, and coloring books and other businesses and individuals have come in with donations ranging from $25 and up, Harrell said.

Jackie Post, vice president of community relations and development for Wellmore said staff members picked four carloads of toys Wednesday and are planning another pickup Dec. 16.

“We have an overabundance of toys,” Post said. “We’ve never ever received this type of quantity of gifts ever.”
She said Wellmore plans to distribute the toys to children from all its programs, including the functional family therapy program, intensive in home child and adolescent psychiatric service, child outpatient clinic and care coordination program, something it’s never been able to do before.

Now Wellmore’s staff is in the process of sorting the gifts, calling parents, and figuring out which toys to give to who. Staff will identify the most needy families and distribute gifts to them first, before going down the list.

“It’s going to be like coming to the North Pole directly and shopping for their clients to give them gifts,” Post said.

For those who still want to give, Post said Wellmore is asking for monetary donations and donations of coats, gloves and hats for children from infants to 17 years old. Harrell said people should continue the spirit of giving by donating to any charity of their choice.

“Something that was not in the spirit of Christmas and giving turned out to be an overabundance of putting people into the giving mood and supporting Wellmore,” Post said.

The theft is still being investigated by Officer Avelina Rivera and members of the detective bureau, according to Deputy Police Chief Robert Desena.

12/10/2016 Pag A07 Copyright (c) 2016 Republican-American 12/10/2016