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Vandals Again Target Couple’s Holiday Display

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sandy Mechaalani fancies herself as one of Santa’s Southern California elves, spreading Christmas cheer throughout her Northridge neighborhood.

“People have to be good to each other. Throughout the year they don’t always remember that, and they need to be reminded. We need to have peace,” she said.

Saturday morning, however, Mechaalani awoke to the sound of a neighbor knocking frantically at the door to deliver the news that a grinch had stolen Christmas--or at least a good portion of the elaborate Christmas display they had recently built on their front lawn.

Each year after Thanksgiving she and her husband, Robert, gather local children together and let them help create a Christmas village--including a moving windmill, a sleigh with papier-mache reindeer, a church and a five-car train. Nearer the holiday, the Mechaalanis host an open house for neighbors to celebrate the season and view the decorations.

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But concerned neighbors who strolled by the house in the 11000 block of Viking Avenue on Saturday saw a scene of mean-spirited destruction. Gone were the wooden house, the top of the windmill, three wooden snowmen and two of the reindeer.

Two other reindeer were bashed and broken. A building was toppled. The wooden train was derailed and the front car detached. A plastic image of Jesus had been tossed from the cradle in the Nativity scene.

Sandy Mechaalani, a professional caterer who runs her own gourmet shop in Calabasas, said she was appalled when she saw the wreckage. She and her neighbors, who had stopped to offer consolation, said they believed the vandals were teen-agers who live in the affluent neighborhood.

“We put a lot of hard work into this,” she said. “It’s a shame what kids do.”

Robert Mechaalani, who later drove through the neighborhood and recovered some of the stolen decorations, said this is the third--and by far the worst--incident of vandalism against the Christmas village in the three years that he and his wife have had the display.

But Christmas spirits did not forsake the family. All day, Sandy Mechaalani said, area residents stopped by and offered to help reconstruct the decorations.

“The good thing that came out of this is that all these neighbors came out of the woodwork when they saw what happened and offered to help,” she said.

She said the family hopes to have the vandalized village back in order within days.

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