By Miriam Ostermann, Associate Editor
Strathmore’s got itself a Grinch. With only a month left before Christmas, to the day, a senior citizen was caught on camera at Tina’s No Frills emptying out all the toys in the donation bin and setting back efforts by a collaboration of three local organizations to provide struggling families with a Christmas this season.
Adopt a Family is a new initiative between the Strathmore Overnight Shelter (SOS), Scotiabank, and Tina’s No Frills, that aims to sponsor at least four families who are struggling to make ends meet this holiday season. Up until Nov. 24, the fundraiser was going well and organizers were hopeful of making their quota of at least two toys per child – with 12 children on their current list.
Yet on Nov. 24 just after 11 a.m., a Caucasian man dampened the spirit by entering the local grocery store and proceeded by emptying the bin.
According to Tina’s No Frills Owner-Operator Tina Shipley, the video footage clearly shows the man she estimated to be well above 60 years old. While she posted a message on social media encouraging the individual to return the items without charges being laid, the toys are still missing and Shipley planned on contacting the Strathmore RCMP on Nov. 28.
“I’m very disappointed, we were really just starting and this is definitely a set back that’s for sure,” said Shipley.
“Who steals from the poor? And kids at that. I was horrified. I hope that we can all pull together and still make it a good Christmas for families.”
The bin was located near the entrance where Shipley hoped her customers would take notice and contribute. After the incident, the bin has been moved further inside the store with less focus but safer location.
Currently, the collaboration only has eight items to hand out at their Dec. 6 deadline. The local organizations teamed up shortly after the October fires recognizing the need for struggling families, and with the intention of alleviating some pressure off of the Strathmore and Wheatland County Christmas Hamper Society.
Now, the organizers are turning to the community more than before.
“That’s why I was so disappointed, because we were actually going to make our quota and have enough toys to distribute between families,” said Richard Rodgers, director of Outreach for the Strathmore Overnight Shelter (SOS).
“When I heard about all the toys being stolen a week before we’re handing them out, it’s very disappointing and sad. The drive was doing well. What we’re looking for is for the public to step up and help us fill what was taken. There’s still those four families in need… we’re going to be short quite a bit.”
The incident follows a recent uproar on social media, where residents from across Strathmore have been posting about having their cars checked, broken into and stolen. One incident included a large amount of bottles being taken, where the money from the refund was originally intended to be donated back into the community.
Long-time resident and mother of two Julia Patterson fell victim to a crime last week, when she had a total of four tires slashed in less than a week period. Both vehicles were parked in the stalls located in the back by the alley. On Nov. 24, her boyfriend found one tire slashed. Then, a few days later, Patterson noticed three more tires, including the recently repaired one, had been slashed once again. While she said she felt targeted, it’s also posing as a financial burden to the young family so close to Christmas.
“It just makes me so angry because I have two small children you can clearly see the car seats,” said Julia Patterson. “It’s really close to Christmas and I jut don’t understand why someone would want to do that. In my own home I feel fine, but if I was walking around by myself, no I would not feel safe. It’s gotten bad.”
RCMP have also received numerous reports on Nov. 12 that vehicles and properties have been entered in the Muirfield area of Lyalta. After several tips and investigation, the police were able to locate two males found in possession of the stolen property, that included identification documents, keys, several garage-door remotes, electronics, and even bear mace. A stolen vehicle was also recovered.
Vehicle thefts in the Town of Strathmore is also on the rise.
“There’s not doubt, a lot of them unfortunately are crimes of opportunity where vehicles are left unlocked, garage door openers are left inside the vehicles, or keys are lefts inside the vehicles, so people are making it easy to become victims,” said Strathmore RCMP Staff Sgt. Kevin O’Dwyer.
The Strathmore RCMP is asking anyone who has had their property stolen to contact the RCMP at 403-934-3968.
As for Adopt a Family, the fundraiser is in need of 30 more items to provide the four families in need with a special holiday. Drop offs can be made at Tina’s No Frills, Scotiabank, and The Harvest Healing Centre Church.