PATCHOGUE, N.Y. -- A nonprofit thrift store on Long Island was robbed this week by a woman who police say pretended to shop for her needy children.
They say she stole bank envelopes filled with cash after distracting the store's founder and her volunteers.
As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported Thursday, the Patchogue community is stepping in to help.
Debbie Loesch and her Angels of Long Island thrift store meet crucial needs of her Patchogue community.
"Giving makes you feel good. This is truly a grass roots, neighbors-helping-neighbors organization," Loesch said.
Local residents agree.
"She has a wonderful heart, so they help everybody," one person said.
"It's a critical part of our community," another said.
"Before this opened up, she was doing this out of her living room," another added.
CBS2 had been at the store recently for baby formula and.
"One in three families are struggling to provide for their children. We are blessed to be able to do this," Loesch says in a public service announcement.
However, Loesch told McLogan it came as a gut punch when a customer allegedly betrayed that trust.
"I believe this was planned. I believe that she kind of knew our routines," Loesch said.
An alleged shopper was caught on camera entering the back office and then grabbing cash envelopes intended for the bank, plus jewelry, rolled coins, and debit cards.
"She could have asked any one of the girls on the floor if she needed food, clothing for her children," Loesch said.
The suspect was confronted after dropping a wad of cash. Police then arrested the woman, who was in possession of multiple IDs, and charged her with a felony. Much of the stolen property was recovered, but $1,600 is still missing. Detectives think there was an accomplice who got away.
The missing money is used to pay overhead for the nonprofit thrift shop. Rent and bills amount to almost $18,000 per month.
"I'm sure Debbie is feeling so many different emotions. It puts such a bad taste in a place that's so good," Patchogue resident Alycia Bender said.
"I almost felt like I should be praying for her," Loesch said.
Local high school students heard about the crime and started a GoFundMe page, a gesture that left Loesch in tears.
"This community is phenomenal. I have seen miracles happen here," she said.
The response has left her ringing with pride, humility, and gratitude.
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