By Sam Eichner
This past summer when Christmas Gift Program Coordinator Jim Wogan checked the Waukegan storage facility where Catholic Charities of Lake County stores leftover donations, he discovered a kicked-in panel adjacent to the door and, once inside, a room noticeably bereft of toys.
“My guess is that it was a cold winter last year,” Wogan. “And someone broke in to get out of the cold, started nosing around, and realized they hit the jackpot.”
In this case, the jackpot was hundreds of extra toys — surplus from the previous year’s Christmas gift drive that Wogan and Catholic Charities of Lake County planned to use to springboard this year’s program, which collects toys for underprivileged families in Lake County.
Last year, the program provided gifts to approximately 15,000 people; though hundreds of toys were stolen from this year’s seed fund, they account for only a small fraction of what the drive will ultimately collect.
Following several local TV spots, Catholic Charities of Lake County has already managed to recoup a good portion of the stolen gifts. Some people have come forward to write checks on behalf of the program, while some toy companies have simply sent over boxes of gifts.
“I never cease to be surprised by people’s generosity,” Wogan says, “and how they rally around a cause like this.”
Intake for this year’s Christmas gift drive started two days after Labor Day. If you or anyone you know is interested in donating gifts, drop off is located at the Catholic Charities office at 671 S. Lewis Avenue in Waukegan.
Next year, Wogan said, they’ll have a new, more secure storage facility for this season’s store of leftover toys.