Brazen Burglars Take Donated Items From Charity

Christmas For Everyone, of Concord and Martinez, may have to close because of the heavy loss, says founder.

Grinches come around in February and March, too.

Burglars have hit Christmas For Everyone, a charity that makes Christmas brighter for needy people in Central Contra Costa County. Its big annual effort is a at the New Hope International Church on Olivera Court in Concord.

The heavy loss may mean curtains for a nonprofit built up over 27 years.

"We don't have the money to regroup or redo it," said Mary Breshears Perez, founder and director of the charity that organizes Christmas gifts for families who need them. She estimated the loss at $60,000 in gifts, toys, dolls, clothing, tools and furniture. There was no insurance, she said.

The burglars apparently used tin snips to pry their way through the tin at the back of a warehouse in unincorporated Martinez, Perez said. Christmas For Everyone discovered the break-in on Monday, Feb. 26. Perez said the thefts took place over several days. "They were very organized," she said.

'Cops and robbers'

Christmas For Everyone reported the thefts to the Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff. Dissatisfied with the investigation, Perez and friend Diane Lock Heitkam teamed up to play "cops and robbers," Perez said: "I'm a pretty good detective.

"All I can say is we have been in contact with the victim and our Investigations Division is actively pursuing this case," wrote sheriff's office Public Information Officer Jimmy Lee.

Perez is grateful to Heitkam, a friend who goes back decades with Perez to when they attended Alhambra High in Martinez. Perez and Heitkam paid a visit Sunday, March 3, to the Solano Public Market at the drive-in theater in Concord.

At one table in the market, Perez said she recognized some gifts, still in the retail plastic packaging, the way that donors had brought them to Christmas For Everyone. She and Heitkam confronted the man who was selling them with Perez getting in the van with him. The man said, "I don't want any trouble — take anything that's here," Perez said.

They took the items. They also got information and visited a Concord home, where there were some tables, chairs and a toolbox stolen from Christmas For Everyone, Perez said. With Concord police officers present, a woman at the home said her son had told her he had bought the items and someone had given them to him at a storage unit, Perez said. No arrests were made, Perez said.

Through the detective work, Perez estimated she had recovered $1,000 worth of items.


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