Some may call it the kind of move only the Grinch could pull, when a Christmas Eve thief took money intended for helping serve the children of the county.
At 9:42 p.m. on Dec. 24, Miami Police Officer Richard Davis was dispatched to the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa County located at 830 D Street SE in Miami in reference to a burglary alarm as well as broken glass.
According to Davis' incident report, upon arrival he walked around and searched the building.
“I personally walked the building twice and didn't notice anything that looked out of place, or any windows that had been broken or disturbed,” Davis wrote in his report. “After confirming the building seemed to be secure, myself and other units left the area. After leaving the building for a few minutes I was requested back by employees of the Boys and Girls Club.”
Davis reports when he arrived back at the building the employees told him they noticed one of the windows to the offices had been opened.
At that time, Davis observed the screen to the window and a blue basket on the ground outside the window.
“While I was checking the building earlier I check(ed) the window twice and the window screen was still intact,” Davis reported.
The Boys and Girls employees unlocked the doors and Davis and other MPD officers checked and cleared the interior and exterior of the building.
Once the building had been cleared, Davis asked the employees and Club Manager Jennifer Wood, who had arrived, to check the building to see if anything was missing.
Wood discovered that 17 children's Kindle tablets valued at $109 each, $500 in cash and several checks from a bank bag and another $120 in Wood's personal cash in her checkbook hidden in her desk were all stolen. A total of $2,480 of cash and merchandise was reported stolen by the Christmas Eve burglar.
“Wood placed the bag in between her files in her desk drawer. None of the files seemed to have been moved as if the suspect knew where the bank bag was," Davis wrote in the incident report. "Wood stated that only a few of the employees knew where the bank bag was at. After checking the building, it seemed the only window that had been unlocked was the south window in the offices.”
Miami Chief of Police Thomas Anderson said there is a suspect in the case but no arrest has been made at this time.
Anyone with information regarding the burglary or stolen items is asked to contact the Miami Police Department.
Negative turned positive
The big heart of a little girl, Charlie Judd, turned the negative event into a positive and began a movement sure to warm any heart.
Boys and Girls Club Executive Director Mackenzie Garst accepted a donation on Wednesday from Judd, one of the Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa County’s kids.
Judd heard about the burglary and wanted to help replace the items with her own money. After discussing it with her mother, Judd presented the money to Garst.
“The kindness and compassion of kids always overwhelms me in times like this,” Garst said “We had a discussion with the kids about the burglary, and how even though sometimes bad things happen, we have to practice love and kindness and forgiveness. After we had that discussion with the kids, that’s when Charlie came up and said she’d been thinking about it and wanted to donate that money she’d been saving to help replace the items that we lost. It just reminds that we’re kind of doing the right thing here by investing in our kids and teaching them the right way to be a big kid. I’m really proud of Charlie for doing that.”
Garst said the burglary has been a learning experience for all and the Club staff used the event as an educational opportunity.
“Although it’s a really negative experience for us we certainly wanted to use it as a teachable moment for kids to say we didn’t have any control of this and this is what happens in life, but we get to choose how we respond to it,” Garst said. “So, we’re just trying to keep that positive energy and outlook around the Club because that’s really the lesson for all of this, that we can move on and we can learn from it, and hopefully do better next time.”
Garst said the cash taken was from $10 entry fees paid by parents for their children’s participation in Winter Break Camp at the Club, which provides daytime activities and care from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily to offer a safe place for kids on school break.
“For our kids to participate over Christmas break we only charge parents $10, that’s not $10 a day or $10 a week, that’s $10 for the entire two and a half weeks,” Garst said. “That money seems really small to some people, but that was our parents’ hard-earned money. You know, we’re open a lot of hours over winter break and it’s through community donors and donations that we’re able to do that because we charge so little to our families who participate.”
Ottawa County Sheriff’s Deputy Ron Shirley was moved by Judd’s donation and put out a community challenge on Facebook asking others to donate to help cover the replacement costs of stolen items and cash.
Shirley posted on his Facebook page, “I would like to donate $100.00 to our B/G Club of Ottawa County and would like to challenge each of my F/B friends to do the same! Let's see how much we can pull together for them. I have been blessed by this organization for my daughter in the past and the service they provide is priceless!”
Shirley is hoping others in the community will donate whatever amount possible to help the Club, which provides a safe and fun environment for area children.
“The benefit that they offer for the children of our community, I know what it meant to me whenever I needed it as a single parent. They were there to help my daughter when the need was there, and so I just felt the need to do something for them,” Shirley said. “I keep telling myself, in my line of work that I do, that I see all sides of human nature, and when you think there’s no more lows, then something like this happens. I mean, Christmas Eve! I find it repulsive when people actually prey on kids, no matter the form, it’s low and it’s hard to take. My hope is that everybody will give a little, if not $100, give something.”
He hopes Judd’s generous spirit will lead to even more support for the important community resource, and he said Garst’s leadership and attitude in the situation is a great example and role model for the children served at the Club.
“It hit home. That’s the type of encouragement and leadership those kids need,” Shirley said.
Garst said she was impressed with Shirley’s interest and support as well.
“I loved seeing that. You know, we all like a good challenge, and I love when it’s a challenge for a good cause, so I really appreciate Ron doing that,” Garst said. “I really appreciate all the community support, they’ve really been a huge help and a Godsend to us.”
Donations may be made at the Boys and Girls Club at 830 D Street SE in Miami or by donating through a donation button found at the top of the ‘Boys and Girls Club of Ottawa County' Facebook page. All money donated locally is used in the Ottawa County Club to support local children.