Burglar steals holiday toys at Half Moon Bay church, donors step in

HALF MOON BAY (BCN) - A burglar jumped a fence and broke a lock last week to take 80 percent of the toys a church in Half Moon Bay planned to give to low-income families this Christmas, a church official said.

Deputies responded at about 10 a.m. Friday to Our Lady of the Pillar Catholic Church at 400 Church St. and learned the toys were stolen Thursday night or Friday morning, San Mateo County sheriff's officials said.

Parish Secretary Paula Martinez did not say how many toys were stolen, but it was enough for about 200 children.

Martinez said the church has no video footage of the theft and everyone from the church was gone when it occurred.

Citizens and law enforcement officers have come together to make up the loss of the toys, about $2,000 worth, sheriff's officials said.

Since then most or all of the loss has been made up by toy donations from the sheriff's office toy drive, private citizens and a $1,000 check from the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Organization of Sheriff's Sergeants, San Mateo County sheriff's spokesman Detective Salvador Zuno said.

"It's going to cover their loss," Zuno said of the combination of donations and money.

"There's been a lot of reaction" from the community, he said. A lot of citizens have donated, he said.

Martinez confirmed that donations from residents and law enforcement officers have made up for the loss, which is now safely stored in a container with a new lock.

"People are being very generous," Martinez said.

"We're sad" about the loss, but the good thing is "this is bringing a lot of people together to do the right thing," Zuno said.

The church was working with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of San Mateo to collect the toys and both groups continue to collect toys for the drive, sheriff's officials said.

Church officials will be handing out the toys at 5 p.m. Monday at the church, Martinez said.

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