ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Five bags of toys meant for donations were stolen out of a vehicle in Gates Tuesday morning. Those belonged to Van Stanely, the woman behind People’s Choice Kitchen, which provides pay-what-you-can meals to community members.
The bags of toys were in her truck for her annual toy giveaway for children in need, something she is hosting this Saturday at the restaurant on Brooks Ave.
Stanley describes waking up at 7:00 a.m., walking out to her truck and discovering the glove compartment had been opened, with papers strewn everywhere. Knowing she had the several bags of toy donations in the back, she opened the door and found them all missing.
Van recalls she was overwhelmed with frustration and disappointment but didn’t really have time to slow down. She drove to work, stopping by the Wegmans on Lyell Ave for supplies, as she does (if not daily) several times a week. Because of the relationships she built with the employees there, when they learned about what happened, they took action.
The entrepreneur received a phone call a little later that morning. On the other line was the Manager of Wegmans, telling her they are replacing all of the toys.
“It’s the worst feeling being violated but then to receive a call from the manager at Wegmans and tell me, ‘Don’t worry we’re going to replace every single toy that was in your vehicle.’ I’ve cried. I’ve cried so much I don’t think I have any more tears. I thank Wegmans from the bottom of my heart,” says Van Stanley.
A handful of employees set out shopping in the store, lending a little extra hand to even wrap up all the gifts. Wegmans says Van is the epitome of a strong community leader paving the way to bring goodness to the place where she lives, adding the employees at the store feel as though she is family.
“She might be the most well-known person at Lyell [Wegmans], as well as in Gates and in the 19th Ward. Just the overall impact has touched more than just children. It has touched their parents, it has touched family members and this is the least we could do, especially for what she’s done for our community members, and even some of our people,” says Chrissy Kreber, Store Manager for the Wegmans Lyell Ave location.
Gates Police confirm learning about the incident, noting a formal theft report is expected to be filed Tuesday evening. When asked about the dollar value of what was stolen, Van replied, to those toys were priceless because of who they are for; the children.