11/24/04 — Charity robbed of gifts

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Charity robbed of gifts

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on November 24, 2004 2:02 PM

Connie Lashmet of Toys for Tots cried all the way from Duplin County to Goldsboro's Wal-Mart when the store officials notified her that toys had been stolen from her donation box.

The Wal-Mart store called her at about 2 p.m. Tuesday and asked her if she had sent a woman to pick up toys for her. Mrs. Lashmet said she has told the people at all of her drop-off points that only she or her husband, James, would be picking up toys.

"They asked her for her ID, and she didn't have any," she said. "She told them that they had called her."

When the store employees went to verify that, the woman bagged up a load of toys, taking the more expensive ones and leaving the others, and left.

"The (video) tape showed only the back of her head," said Mrs. Lashmet. "They could see her plundering the box." The culprit was described to police as a young woman, white, 5-feet-7 and 160 pounds with short curly brown hair and braces on her teeth.

A Wal-Mart official said the store would replace the stolen toys.

This is the second time this month that a charity in Goldsboro has been robbed. On Nov. 7, a thief raided the pantry at the Salvation Army, stealing food meant for Christmas baskets.

Mrs. Lashmet said she was notifying all of the people at her other drop-off sites and warning them to not let anybody except her and her husband pick up toys.

She said that at the Clinton Wal-Mart some teen-agers ran up to a table manned by a corporate sponsor that sells toys for Toys for Tots and grabbed some of the toys off the table. They were caught.

But Mrs. Lashmet said she is not interested in prosecution. She is hoping the woman will have second thoughts and return the toys.

"I just want the toys back for the kids," she said. "It's hard to believe this happened."

She said she hopes this doesn't discourage anybody from donating toys. Her telephone number is on the donation boxes. People can call the number, and she will pick them up.

Normally, the boxes have been filled up before the Lashmets get the toys. But now, she said, they're not going to let them pile up like that.

"I have 800 kids at the Goldsboro Salvation Army alone," she said. "I'm heart broken over it."

Wayne County was added this year to the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots campaign, with drop-off sites at Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Kmart, Big Lots, KB Toys, Fun Products, Shelton Harley-Davidson and the BB&T on Berkeley Boulevard in Goldsboro and at the Roses store in Mount Olive.