PORT RICHEY — Just after 8 p.m. Wednesday, they piled the gifts into the back seat of the Hyundai Sonata.
Darrell Lambert, his wife Tabitha Lambert and his mother, Robin Lachance, had placed name labels of 25 disadvantaged kids on the gift bags. Inside were wrapped Christmas goodies including Barbie dolls, new clothes and remote control cars.
Everything was loaded up so the gifts could be delivered first thing the next day. Darrell Lambert locked the car doors and went back inside his Embassy Hills home.
The next morning, the Lamberts discovered the back passenger window was broken.
All of the gifts were gone.
"I don't know if the kids are going to get anything now," said Lachance, 54. "I can't believe children will wake up on Christmas morning and have nothing."
Tabitha Lambert, 30, is a volunteer for Guardian ad Litem, an organization that advocates for abandoned, abused or neglected children in the child welfare system.
Every year, Guardian ad Litem's volunteers ask the children they serve for their Christmas list.
Each child writes down about three items, and the organization's volunteers ask members of the community to buy toys.
"We take them to foster kids or kids in poverty," said James Blaney, a volunteer. "Volunteers tell the staff which kids they know won't get gifts. They start with the neediest ones first."
For the second year in a row, Lachance asked staff members at Palm Harbor University High School, where she works as a secretary, to pitch in and buy toys. This year, about 10 staff members bought about $500 worth of toys and clothes, Lachance said.
On Wednesday, Lachance took the gifts to her son and daughter-in-law's home to help wrap them. Each of the 25 gift bags had three gifts, and was labeled with the child's name and age.
Afterward, Lachance and her son headed outside the Ledgestone Lane home to put the gifts in the car. Tabitha Lambert planned to take them to her office Thursday so they could be delivered next week by the volunteer assigned to each child.
"I was going to put them in the trunk, but I had golf clubs in there," said Darrell Lambert, 32. "So my mom put them in the back seat. I had an alarm (on the car), so I didn't think anybody would do anything."
According to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office report on the burglary, someone tried to pry open the back passenger side door, which caused the window to break.
Darrell Lambert took the car to an auto shop. The damage is about $1,100, he said.
Lachance has informed the people who donated the gifts about the theft. She isn't sure what Christmas morning will look like for the children.
"Everyone at school felt so bad for these children," she said. "I just can't believe people would take from other people like that."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.