By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Shrewsbury – They didn's come by sleigh and they weren's led by a team of reindeer. But on Monday,??Dec. 10, the mood was definitely merry as nearly a dozen employees of Hasbro, the Pawtucket, RI-based toy giant got the chance to play Santa's elves. The lucky recipients? St. Anne's Church, which just days before had been devastated after thieves broke into a locked shed on the church's 130 Boston Turnpike (Route 9) property and stole nearly 100 gifts slated for children in need this holiday season.
The gifts, estimated at $2,000-$3,000, had been donated as part of the church's annual Giving Tree program. 297 families, with an estimated 350 children, had officially signed up to receive gifts this year, according to Elaine LeBlanc, the director of St. Anne's Human Services. In many cases, families also sign up after the deadline – they are never turned away, she added.
When thieves broke into the shed sometime on Tuesday, Dec. 4, they took just about everything that had been donated so far, LeBlanc said.
“It was a mess,” she added. “They cleared out almost all the presents and left paper and debris all over the place.”
After the news spread, the Rev. John Foley, the church's pastor, said he was “amazed” at the response.
“We'se received over 200 gifts, plus gift cards and money from all over, from as far away as California,” he said. “This story spread like crazy, especially on FaceBook. I knew how big hearted the Shrewsbury people were but really, so many others have really came to our rescue too.”
“It's so wonderful, because for many of these families, this will be the only Christmas they will have,” he added.
Hasbro, one of the largest toy companies in the world, also quickly stepped in and offered to donate 300 toys and games to the church.
Brandon Keough is a community relations manager with the company.
“When we learned of this news, we were saddened as well,” he said. “We decided that we wanted to jump into action and help the church recover from this theft. We hope this [donation] helps to make the holidays a little bit brighter for the kids.”
On Monday, Dec. 10 volunteers from the company met the truck at the church to help unload the donations.
“I had heard about this of course so I wanted to do what I could do to help,” Bill Wright, who lives in Shrewsbury, said. “It's just unbelievable that someone could do something like this – steal from kids.”
“We'se really glad Hasbro is doing this,” Rich Borgelas, a resident of Northbridge, added. “It's the season of giving. It feels good to help.”
LeBlanc praised the efforts of Kerry Barbour, the director of the Giving Tree program, and her team of volunteers, who had been working non-stop to sort through the new donations.
“Kerry really pulled it together, she and her elves,” LeBlanc said. “I don's know how but they did. They have been working so hard to get everything organized.”
“I'se hardly slept,” Barbour said. “None of really have and we won's until we are finished. But that's ok.”
Barbour noted that participating families were due to pick up the presents Thursday, Dec. 13 and Friday, Dec. 14.
“We just really want to thank Hasbro for this,” she said, as she watched the donations being taken off the truck. “They did a really wonderful, wonderful thing. Because of them, a lot of Shrewsbury children are going to have a great Christmas.”
The Shrewsbury Police Department has requested that anyone with information regarding the theft contact Detective Michael R. McGinnis of the Shrewsbury Police Detective Bureau at 508-845-4681.