MARTINEZ (CBS SF) — Martinez-based charity Christmas for Everyone lost everything in a burglary at its storage unit late last month and may be forced to end the program.
Mary Perez, director of the group that raises money and gifts for needy families and seniors each Christmas, said she returned to the organization’s Martinez storage building on Feb. 25 after being gone for a few weeks to find the place had been ransacked.
“They took everything—pots and pans, tables and chairs, our presents, everything we use to do our program with,” she said Friday. “Twenty-eight years of accumulation is gone.”
The thieves stole an estimated $60,000 worth of property including 68 tables, 100 chairs, tools, toys, winter coats and barrels filled with gifts from the charity, she said.
Perez said the burglars also cut the building’s electricity, stole copper wire and de-activated an alarm system before cutting a hole in the back of the building and looting it.
She had installed the costly alarm system, in addition to special locks, and was considering getting cameras for the building after a weeklong series of thefts there in 2009.
Perez believes some of the same suspects involved in that burglary played a role in last month’s theft.
Recently, she and a friend headed to a North Concord flea market when they spotted some of the items stolen from the charity for sale.
Perez said was able to buy back some of those items, and learned after questioning the seller that a local parolee had provided them, she said.
Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Jimmy Lee said Friday that investigators have identified a suspect in connection with the burglary but have not yet arrested the individual.
After paying a visit to the Martinez home of the parolee’s mother, where he had been staying, Perez said she and a friend were able to recover about $800 more of the stolen property.
“It’s a drop in the bucket,” she said.
For now, she and other charity volunteers are working to clean up the looted storage building, which she plans to move from.
“We can’t stay in this place, it’s too unsafe,” Perez said. “We’ve been blessed by being given this enormous building for 15 years—and we don’t have the money to pay for storage.”
With no equipment or space to store donations, Perez said, the 27th annual Christmas for Everyone celebration will likely have to be cancelled.
The yearly gift and holiday meal event is held at the New Hope International Church in Concord.
“It’s really unreal that 28 years later, here we are,” she said.
Perez is asking anyone who may have purchased the stolen furniture or other property to return the items.
More information about the charity can be found at www.christmasforeveryone.com.
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