Donors restore toys, faith

Published 10:06 pm Thursday, December 11, 2008

An outpouring of support from all over Hampton Roads has the Suffolk Toys for Tots coordinator feeling a lot better this week.

“The community has given me faith again,” John Woleben said. “The response from the community over the stolen toys has been outstanding.”

Last week, Woleben reported to police that about 70 brand-new, donated gifts had been stolen from the Toys for Tots warehouse in Suffolk. The stolen items included six bicycles, 20 MP3 players, 24 digital cameras, 20 men’s watch gift sets and a necklace gift set. At the time, Woleben lamented the fact that they were mostly gifts for older children, which is an area sorely lacking in donations.

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However, Hampton Roads has come back strong, Woleben said.

After reports hit local newspapers and television stations last week, a man from Hampton called Woleben saying he wanted to help. They arranged to meet Sunday, and the man had four bicycles and eight MP3 players waiting for Woleben to pick up.

That wasn’t the only show of support.

A retired U.S. Navy man from Williamsburg sent a substantial check, which Woleben said will be used to purchase toys. A Suffolk man called wanting to donate bicycles and MP3 players, and a friend of Woleben’s saw his wife in the grocery store and gave her $50 to buy toys, Woleben said.

There will soon be even more news reports telling the story of Suffolk Toys for Tots.

Woleben received a call this week from Fox 5 News in Washington, D.C. The television station informed him they will be featuring the story of the stolen toys on their “Bah Humbug” segment this weekend.

“I thought it was nice of them to call,” said Woleben, who has a phone interview with them scheduled Saturday.

“I’m sure feeling a lot better this week after the community’s response,” he said. “We got the money to replace the bikes, and praise the Lord for that.”

Despite the donations, there still is a long way to go for every needy child to wake up with toys on Christmas morning, Woleben said.

People can support Toys for Tots in several ways. Those who want to give toys can visit, click on “Toy Dropoffs” and select “Virginia” and “Suffolk” from the drop-down menus to bring up a list of convenient toy drop-off locations.

Those who want to give money for Toys for Tots personnel to use to purchase toys can donate to the Suffolk News-Herald Cheer Fund by mailing a check to the Suffolk Cheer Fund, P.O. Box 1220, Suffolk, VA 23439, or bringing it by the Suffolk News-Herald office at 130 S. Saratoga St., Suffolk.

All Cheer Fund donations are given to the Toys for Tots Foundation. Those who want to send the check directly to Toys for Tots can make it payable to the Toys for Tots Foundation and mail to P.O. Box 5099, Suffolk, VA 23435.