by Tyler Orton, Contributor
Jennifer Nelson and Andrew Macdonald had every reason to believe Christmas would be a disaster for their family. They had left their home for a few hours on Dec. 20 before returning to find it ransacked.
“We were just devastated,” Nelson says.
A thief scavenged the uninsured house for jewelry and high-end electronics, going so far as to unwrap all the presents under the tree in search of items to steal.
The burglar made off with computer tablets, digital cameras and even a laptop Nelson’s eight-year-old daughter Thandi bought with money saved up from last Christmas and her most recent birthday.
Just hours after hearing about the theft, friends Carrie Gambill and Carly Nesbitt took to Facebook and launched a campaign to help Nelson’s family.
“I was shocked (about the theft), and she (Nelson) lives less than a block away from me. It (the theft) made me paranoid,” Gambill said. “This kind of thing, you always hear about it this time of year, but it’s usually not somebody you know.”
Donation boxes were set up at Legal Grounds Coffeehouse and Baby Blossom Boutique, while online PayPal contributions were coming in from as far as Kentucky. Offerings ranged from $5 to $250.
Local bands Childsplay, Overtime, Limosis and Guts and Glory even raised money by playing a charity concert on Dec. 23.
Nelson, who helps at-risk youth at Abbotsford Community Services, also received numerous phone calls and emails from people asking what they could get Thandi and her four-year-old stepsister.
“They had more than they would have ever gotten,” she says, noting the abundance of clothes, toys and colouring books the girls received in the days following the theft. “They were spoiled.”
Although Nelson is still fearful of being targeted again, she confirmed the donations allowed her to replace Thandi’s stolen computer as well as the digital camera that was taken from under the Christmas tree.
“I just really want to thank everybody for being so amazing,” Nelson says. “This has been a totally different experience than it could have been.”
Despite the massive outpouring of support – Gambill alone collected $600 – the theft is still affecting the family. Nelson gets nervous about leaving the home unattended, while Thandi is having difficulty sleeping.
Although Nelson wishes the robbery never happened, the event reaffirmed the Christmas spirit.
“This year has just been so amazing, because it feels like Santa is real.”