After thousands of gifts are stolen, Chicagoans rally to help Englewood Group give South Side children a merry Christmas
ENGLEWOOD – After a three-week whirlwind of getting a 53-foot train container with over $ 50,000 in stolen goods, finding the container nearly 30 miles away, and raising money to replace the stolen goods, an organizer of South Side has finally made its annual Christmas gift a reality.
With âSilent Nightâ from The Temptations on a speaker, Delece Williams, founder of Kidz Korna, handed out hundreds of gifts to children on Friday afternoon as part of the 16th annual Adopt Your Block contest. Dozens of cars lined up at 6530 S. Parnell Ave. to collect teddy bears, dolls and basketballs for the kids, while families also received much-needed household appliances.
After having to scramble to make sure families in need don’t get through this holiday season, Williams said the pressure to bring Christmas to Englewood was finally gone.
âI’m excited. I’m happy. I’m thankful,â Williams said. âGod is amazing. It’s finally time for the fun to begin.
Williams and his team have been giving out gifts to South Side families at Christmas for nearly two decades. This year, Williams and Sharon Preston, founder of Flags of the Heart, have plans to make their biggest giveaway yet. In anticipation of the holidays, Williams and Preston collected thousands of gifts, including 10,000 costume jewelry.
But on November 20, Willaims arrived at the Englewood grounds to find that his Christmas container was missing. A quick call with CSX Transportation, the company that donated the container, confirmed that they had not accidentally moved the unit. Neighbors said they saw someone with “the necessary equipment” move the container. No one knew what had happened to the donations.
The mystery was solved days later when Joseph Vaccaro, owner of Vaccaro Trucking, called Preston. A man paid him and his team $ 625 in cash to move the container to Chicago Heights, Vacarro said. It was only after watching the reports that they realized their mistake.
The container was full of gifts when his team initially dropped it off, Vacarro said. But when Williams got there, most of the gifts were either stolen or thrown in the Chicago Heights yard.
Williams and the man who paid to have the content removed went back and forth to the police station to prove who it was, Williams said. Eventually, the police decided it was hers. Williams decided not to press charges, saying the man appeared to apologize and the focus should be on the gift.
With the initial bundle of giveaways gone, Williams appealed to the public for donations to make sure the giveaway could go as planned – and Chicagoans did not disappoint.
People donated toys, coats and funds for gifts. On the cold morning of the gift, CSX Transportation surprised Williams with a truck full of gifts. Amazon Fresh in Oak Lawn donated $ 10,000 to support Williams and his efforts.
Tom Livingston, head of state government and community affairs at CSX, said the company felt the need to “do something right now” to help Williams and his organization.
âWe know everything Kidz Korna and organizations are doing this time of year for communities, and it’s hard enough to do all of that when there’s another challenge,â said Livingston. “Sometimes you just need to stop and take a break and be there for the communities we have coexisted with for generations.”
Phil’P Pierce, deputy director of Amazon Fresh at Oak Lawn, said his team were “ecstatic” to help Kidz Korna continue their efforts in the community. As a resident of Englewood, supporting the work in the community âwas perfect,â he said.
âTo see this event take place and all that Delece is doing to have a positive impact on the community is absolutely amazing,â said Pierce. “And I think that will also lead to a lot of positive generational changes for our community.”
Throughout the ordeal, Williams said she worked every day to “stay positive and keep hope.”
Her testimony is proof that great things can happen, she said
âIf you ever land in my shoes, keep the faith,â Williams said. “Believe beyond the belief that everything will work out.”
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