Despite a last-minute, Grinch-esque theft of donated gifts, volunteers at the San Luis Obispo Elks Lodge were able to collect about $400 worth of gift cards for their annual Christmas drive within one day of delivering them to local children Sunday.
At some point Friday night, Elks volunteer Vivian Boaz said, a suspected thief made away with about $1,000 worth of gift cards and other items donated over the past month to the Elks Lodge No. 322 for its annual gift drive.
“We were calling it a Grinch-tastrophe. We were all pretty shocked,” Boaz said. “Who steals from 2-year-old, 6-year-old kids right before Christmas?”
Elks officers do not know exactly when the items were stolen, and there was no sign of forced entry into the locked Trustee’s Office, where the gifts were sitting beneath a Christmas tree.
“If somebody really needed something, especially this time of year, all they had to do was ask. We take care of our members,” Boaz said.
When the alleged theft was discovered Saturday, Boaz and other volunteers took to social media.
Within 24 hours, local Elks members, residents and businesses had donated enough items so that each of the 67 children identified by the organization as in need received gifts Sunday afternoon, as scheduled.
One person donated about $200 in gift cards, she said, and others donated about $100 in grocery store cards and about $40 in cash.
Central Coast Gymnastics also donated a free three-month membership for one local Elks member’s child.
“ ‘Thank you’ doesn’t quite express the gratitude that’s in my heart,” Boaz said. “Our members and (the community) really stepped up.”
The Elks Lodge has yet to file a report to the police but is asking anyone who may have seen suspicious activity Friday night to call the lodge office at 543-0322.
Anyone interested in donating items for this or next year’s drive or for future Elks events is asked to call Boaz at 550-7627.