Hundreds of dollars’ worth of Christmas toy donations stolen

ROCHESTER, N.Y. Hundreds of dollars’ worth of Christmas toys were stolen from the back of a van early Tuesday morning.

Now Gates Police are searching for the two “Grinches” that took the gifts, which were going to be given to some of Rochester’s less fortunate children.

These toys were all collected through donations to help provide children with at least one present to open on Christmas morning.

“I want the bad person to know that you pretty much took toys from kids,” said Evangela Stanley, better known as “Van.” “Can’t make you feel good. It’s sad. It’s truly sad.”

Stanley is the Owner of People’s Choice Restaurant on Thurston Road and is trying to maintain her Christmas spirit. Early Tuesday morning someone broke into her small truck that was parked in her driveway at her home in Gates.

“They stole all my toys for the kids, for the community,” said Stanley. “It’s like five big bags.”

Her Ring doorbell captured the burglary as it happened around 4:30 a.m. She describes what she saw.

“They pulled up right beside my vehicle, and first you can see a guy opening my door, getting in and going through the front, and then I couldn’t see how they entered the back of the vehicle,” said Stanley.

Her truck was one of many in the Lyell Avenue and Noel Drive neighborhood that was broken into, according to Gates Police.

“We have some video from residents in the area,” said Gates Police Chief Rob Long. “We’re working on reviewing two suspects going in and out of cars.”

Stanley does admit that she’s not 100 percent sure all her doors were locked, but the gifts were in black bags.

“I feel violated,” said Stanley. “I feel horrible. I feel terrible knowing that someone would come into my driveway at 4 a.m. in the morning and go through my personal items. It’s a feeling I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

News of the burglary at Stanley’s home reached Wegmans Corporate Office. Stanley says she got the call that left her thankful.

“Why is the manager at Wegmans calling me, and she’s like ‘Van, we’re going to replace every single toy that was stolen out of your vehicle,’ and I was like thank you,'” she said. “She’s like ‘don’t worry about it. We’re going to replace it.'”

Christmas will still happen for these children. Stanley is hosting her annual Angel Tree Event at the former Walgreens location at Thurston Road and Brooks Ave. Toys will be given to each child this Saturday starting at 4 p.m. until they’re all gone.