NEW PORT RICHEY — The calls began pouring in on Friday morning.
A man offered to buy a wagon, a ball and tennis shoes for a 16-month-old boy. A woman wanted to donate a remote-control truck for a child. Someone wanted to give $1,000.
The outpouring of community support at the local Guardian ad Litem office came after someone stole $500 in gifts that were intended for 25 disadvantaged kids served by the organization.
Now, after a flood of about 60 calls, the gifts will be replaced. There's even money left over for extras the kids need throughout the year, such as diapers, tennis shoes and formula, said Marco Sandusky, Pasco County's area coordinator for the statewide organization.
"The support from the community won't just allow us to replace gifts that were stolen, but allows us to meet kids' needs all year long, on a daily basis," he said.
The original gifts, donated by employees at Palm Harbor University High School, were stolen sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday morning.
Tabitha Lambert, a Guardian ad Litem employee, wrapped the presents Wednesday evening with her husband, Darrell, and his mother, Robin Lachance, who collected the gifts from her co-workers at the high school. Then they piled the gifts into Tabitha Lambert's car so that she could drop them off the next morning at her organization, which advocates for abandoned, abused or neglected children.
But when she went outside her Embassy Hills home Thursday morning, the gifts were gone. According to a report from the Sheriff's Office, someone tried to pry open the back passenger side door, which caused the window to break.
A story in the Times on Friday detailed the incident.
By the time Tabitha Lambert got to work Friday morning, the phone was ringing off the hook with people eager to help.
"Oh my gosh, it was nonstop," she said. "We had some calls waiting when we got here this (Friday) morning."
Callers who wanted to donate money were referred to Suncoast Voices for Children, a nonprofit that partners with Guardian ad Litem. Those who wished to donate gifts could drop them off at Guardian ad Litem's New Port Richey office, Sandusky said.
"It's been pretty incredible," Sandusky said. "There's kids who move from one foster home to another and don't have a change of clothes in a new home. We try to step in, and we can do that with this support that people have provided."
Camille C. Spencer can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 869-6229.