By Barrhaven Independent Staff
Ottawa Police Service has made an arrest in the theft of Christmas toys, gifts and gift cards that were destined to be delivered to needy children and families in December.
A 43-year-old man has been arrested and faces 54 charges contrary to the criminal code. The charges include mischief, possession of property or thing obtained by crime within Canada not exceeding $5,000, and possession/use of credit card obtained by offence.
In December, a load of toys, gifts and grocery gift cards were earmarked to be delivered from the Haven in Barrhaven to Blake House in Vanier. When Adrian Benjamin, the Manager, Community Engagement and Volunteers of Multifaith Housing Initiative arrived at Blake House and opened up the back of his vehicle, he was shocked to find nothing but empty boxes.
“I was stunned,” he said. “We wrapped the toys and gifts the previous night at the Haven in Barrhaven and loaded them up so that we could get going early the next morning. Who would steal toys that were wrapped and labelled and ready to give to five year olds? What kind of person would do that? These toys may have been the only presents these children would receive at Christmas.”
The Multifaith Housing Initiative is a coalition of over 70 faith communities including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindu, Unitarians, Baha’i and other faiths from across the city of Ottawa. These members are dedicated to achieving MHI’s goal to create more affordable housing in Ottawa while promoting tolerance and respect among residents of all faiths.
Currently, MHI owns a total of 179 units, housing between 300 and 400 people, at five different property sites: Blake House, The Haven, Kent House, Somerset Gardens, and Veterans’ House: the Andy Carswell Building.
Benjamin said that the Christmas items were delivered to the other buildings before Christmas. However, because of the storm and bad weather, the Christmas items for Blake House were delayed.
The toys that were distributed were from the various Toy Mountain drop-off centres in Barrhaven and throughout the city. Toys were also collected at the Toy Mountain Parade in Riverside South in late November.
Tenants were also to receive Food Basics gift cards. MacKay United Church of Rockcliffe and Barrhaven United Church also made donations.
Benjamin said he could not put a dollar figure on the value of the items stolen.
After the story of the stolen Christmas gifts was published, MHI received many donations to purchase new gifts and gift cards.
“Due to the assistance from members of the media our story touched the hearts of many residents in Ottawa who gave gracious donations of money and toys,” Benjamin said. “We were able to significantly increase the offering of food gift cards and the number of toys given to the families living at MHI’s Blake House.”
Each Gift Was Special
“The toys were all very nicely wrapped at the Haven and sorted out by each child’s gender and age,” Benjamin said. “We wanted every gift to be special.”
Between the time he got home on the night of Thurs., Dec. 29 and when they left for Blake House the morning of Fri., Dec. 30, his vehicle was broken into.
Benjamin said something seemed strange when he got into his vehicle.
“I had mints in my car, and someone had eaten the mints and left the wrapper on the seat,” he said. “Neither my wife or I would ever do that. We wondered if the kids had done it. But it wasn’t until we got to Blake House that we saw that everything was gone.”
Benjamin said his initial reaction was to worry about what to tell the children.
“They were excited and they were expecting me,” he said. “I wanted to leave before they saw me so that they wouldn’t be confused or upset. When I got back to Barrhaven I let our Executive Director know, and then we had to let them know at Blake House that everything was stolen. Here were 26 families that would have no gift cards and no toys.”
Before the arrest was made, Benjamin said he was happy with how seriously the Ottawa Police were taking the theft and investigation.
“Due to the assistance from members of the media our story touched the hearts of many residents in Ottawa who gave gracious donations of money and toys,” said Benjamin. “We were able to significantly increase the offering of food gift cards and the number of toys given to the families living at MHI’s Blake House.”