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'Grinchtastrophe': Gifts collected for locals in need stolen from SLO Elks lodge 

After a successful month-long Christmas gift drive at the San Luis Obispo Elks Lodge No. 322, Vivian Boaz went to do a few last minute collections on Dec. 19 before handing the gifts out the next day.

When she arrived to the lodge and went to the office where the gifts we being kept behind a locked door, she made a heartbreaking discovery. Sometime the night before, someone had gotten into the stash and stolen approximately $1,000 worth of presents and gift cards.

click to enlarge A STOLEN CHRISTMAS:  Someone stole about $1,000 worth of gifts from the San Luis Obispo Elks Lodge, which collected the gifts to give to homeless children and families who are not able to purchase gifts during the holiday season. - PHOTO COURTESY OF VIVIAN BOAZ
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF VIVIAN BOAZ
  • A STOLEN CHRISTMAS: Someone stole about $1,000 worth of gifts from the San Luis Obispo Elks Lodge, which collected the gifts to give to homeless children and families who are not able to purchase gifts during the holiday season.

The gifts were part of the Elks Christmas Angels Program, which collects gifts and food boxes for 15 families that are unable to purchase gifts this year and for children at the homeless shelter. The program, which is in its fifth year, supplied gifts for 67 people this year.

“They stole somebody’s Christmas,” Boaz told New Times. Boaz said that she had dubbed the incident a “Grinchtastrophe.”

Boaz doesn’t know all of the details of when the heist was pulled off or who it could have been, but she suspects it happened during the previous evening, a Friday, when the lodge was still open. The gifts were behind a locked door in the trustees’ office, which is used by several Elks members and is accessible through connecting doors between offices next to it. A fellow Elks member told Boaz that he saw one of the other office doors left open that evening, and Boaz said someone could have gotten to the presents that way.

She suspects it was a member who was at the lodge and who knew where she was keeping the gifts, but she doesn’t suspect it to be one of the officers, regular donors, or anyone who has access to the offices.

“I wouldn’t question their sticky fingers at all,” Boaz said. “They don’t have them.”

Boaz isn’t sure whether or not the thief or thieves—she thinks that it took two people to make off with so much stuff—are members of the Elks Lodge, but she said the evidence suggests they were.

“It sickens me to think that it is a member,” Boaz said.

Many of the gifts that were stolen were going to young children. One member had donated $300 in gift cards and diapers for a family with a 9-month-old infant.

“They took the gift cards and left the diapers,” Boaz said. “That family was going to use that to buy clothes for the infant.”

In the wake of the heist, Elks and community members quickly responded to try to replace all of the stolen gifts. Boaz put a note out on Facebook, and she received approximately $400 in gifts by the end of the weekend. Central Coast Gymnastics gave a 6-year-old boy three months worth of free gymnastics, and the Boy Scouts of America let them raid their stash of toys collected from a holiday drive.

“I’m just going to turn this frown upside down,” Boaz said. “I think we were able to turn it positive. It wasn’t as much as [there originally] was, but we were able to get something for everybody, and that’s what it was about.”

While the suspect or suspects are still at large, Boaz is hoping that someone might come forward with some helpful information.

“If anybody saw anybody going in and out of there during that time frame, that would be very helpful information,” she said. Call the lodge office at 543-0322.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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