'Why take away from kids?': Businesses step up after donations stolen from Central York fire hall

Theft from a donation site set up at a Central York Fire Services station has sparked an outpouring of holiday spirit from local businesses.

York Regional Police is looking for a man who stole Christmas gifts and donations Dec. 8 from a charity bin located at a Central York Fire Services station in Aurora.

The theft occurred around 3 a.m. as the crew at Station 4-3 on Edward Street in Aurora was responding to a call.

A surveillance video at the entrance to the station shows one or two men loading up toys on three occasions within a half-hour. Initially, a suspect makes two trips into the foyer where donated goods are piled, takes several, and drives away in a vehicle. A man believed to be the same suspect, but dressed differently, returns a few minutes later to snatch more items using what appears to be the same green bags to package the goods.

CYFS Fire Chief Ian Laing said the video has been sent to York Regional Police for enhancement.

"It’s a weird thing someone would do that, but if you’re desperate and in need, I guess someone took things into their own hands rather than ask for help," Laing said.

The four CYFS halls located in Aurora and Newmarket have for years opened their doors to donations to local food pantries, the Salvation Army in Newmarket and Aurora Lions, Laing said.

In fact, he said, most fire halls have similar receiving areas for community donations.

It is the first incident of this nature Laing recalls since he became fire chief 12 years ago.

"It’s unfortunate someone took it upon themselves to take things that have been donated," Laing said. "You feel like someone has to be down on their luck somewhat."

The incident has prompted CYFS to move charity boxes inside secured doors during evening hours.

"We are taking measures at the stations to move donations of toys into the secure area of the fire stations each night to hopefully avoid a repeat visit," Laing said.

In response, some businesses in the community are acting swiftly to replace the stolen goods.

"They are taking Christmas away from kids and that’s not right," Sam Saberi, owner of Tina's Grill in Aurora, said. It upset me. Why take it away from kids? I know kids deserve the best at this time of the year."

Saberi has asked customers to bring toy donations to the restaurant for delivery to the fire hall. He said response has been positive.

"I have a big box coming in this weekend," he said. "I just want to get more people involved. We’ve always been a part of the community and thankful for the community helping us during COVID-19.

"The fire hall is doing what they can and when someone is taking things away, that’s not right."

Meanwhile, employees at Spectrum Educational Supplies in Newmarket acted swiftly the morning of Dec. 10 after hearing about the thefts to replenish the supply with two carloads of toys and cash donations.

By midday, vice-president Carrie Fisher led a roundup of toys from the floor of the manufacturer and distributor of hands-on teaching tools.

Two vehicles full of toys were delivered in the early afternoon to the Salvation Army in Newmarket, after firefighters said that was where the toys would ultimately be donated.

"Carrie just said, 'Let's go,' so we walked around and picked up all sorts of toys," employee Mary Coles said. "We did a great thing today. I think it was amazing."

Laing hopes the thefts won’t dissuade members of the community from continuing to donate items.

"I’m totally amazed at the amount of giving I see at our fire halls all year round," he said. "It’s people helping people and there are a lot of good people out there.

"We simply provide a place to drop off. It is intended for families struggling a little bit and a chance to put some happiness back in their lives."


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