Toys for Tots gets second chance after thieves swipe gifts in SWFL

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:

The true colors of a community are shining bright after a horrible crime over the weekend when thieves stole thousands of dollars worth of toys from the historic Brownville School in DeSoto County.

The news of the crime quickly spread across the community, which led to hundreds of comments flooding authorities, all asking how they could help.

Thursday, a man heartbroken that hundreds of kids might not get their toys for Christmas wrote a check to cover the entire cost of the stolen toys.

A door at the school was broken and propped open.

“They actually climbed over all of this to get into the room is what they’ve determined by the direction of footprints and fingerprints,” said Layport.

A room full of bikes, gaps where more should be, bags and boxes of toys tampered with.

“We had four of these; we now have two,” said Layport.

That’s what Layport saw when she walked into the Old Brownville School on Saturday. That’s when she realized not only Toys for Tots, but the kids of DeSoto County had been robbed.

“Disbelief, I couldn’t believe that somebody would actually do it,” said Layport. “You hear Toys for Tots? You don’t hear anything like this. You really don’t. You hear? Hey, where can I drop a toy off? You don’t hear somebody’s breaking into their building to take their toys.”

The 600 kids who signed up to get presents that collectively cost $2,500 vanished.

“I knew that community would come together. They always do,” said Layport.

On the sheriff’s Facebook page, people flooded the comments section, all asking where and how they could help. But John Liquor didn’t want the fanfare; he simply wanted to help, so he cut a check covering the cost.

“Very overwhelmed; the community is really stepping up. We’ve had two very good donations from last night and this morning,” said Layport. “Amazing phone calls are coming in. The toys will be coming in.”

At the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office, a box is set up, and Sheriff James F. Potter knows one bad deed does not define a community.

“Sometimes something bad happens, but then there’s always, you know, what doors going to be opened up, and there’s somebody there to answer that call,” said Potter.

These grinches’ hearts may not have grown two sizes, but the hearts of DeSoto County have.

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