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Thief Swipes Donated Gifts From Antioch Church

Updated 11/30/11 - 9:10 p.m.

ANTIOCH (CBS) -- A church in far north suburban Antioch is scrambling - after someone stole items that were donated as Christmas gifts for needy families.

As CBS 2's Pamela Jones reports, during regular business hours on Monday, somebody walked into St. Stephen Lutheran Church and stole $700 worth of toys, coats other items intended for Open Arms Mission Charities.

"What drives somebody to steal kids' Christmas presents?" pastor Ellen Arthur said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Regine Schlesinger Reports


All the thieves left behind was a box and some wrapping paper.

"This was going to be for a 5-year-old girl. There were shirt, snow pants and boots in here," Arthur said.

Arthur said church members had gathered about 20 gift packages right near the door.

"What's really so heartwarming about St. Stephen people, they not only put in, like, a pair of boots for a little boy, but they put in several pairs of socks, or a little toy truck or an extra little book or something," she said.

But the empty space left where piles of gifts should be sent the pastor on a frantic search, on the chance someone moved the presents for safekeeping.

The church posted news of the theft on its website and the community pitched in with replacement gifts.

Calls pledging more help were still coming in Wednesday evening.

"Just like everybody else, we don't have a lot of extra cushion, as far as money goes" Arthur said. "We are counting on the generosity of people ... again."

So, the church plans to start over. They have until Dec. 9 to get new donations for the Open Arms Mission, which aids families in the far northern suburbs.

"We'll get those gifts to the kids, that's for sure," Arthur said.

"We've been getting a lot of phone calls and a lot of really nice response from the community," said church member Vicky Hill.

Arthur said it was especially frustrating, because the suspect had to be someone who was familiar with the church to know the gifts were there.

People who still want to donate should take their donations to St. Stephen at 1155 Hillside Ave. in Antioch, call the church at (847-395-3359) or visit the church's website by clicking here.

They'd like to have all the packages ready by next Thursday to donate to the Open Arms Mission in Antioch.

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