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WATTS : Few Leads on Theft of Donated Clothing

Operation Stitches, a nonprofit, Orange County-based organization geared toward keeping children away from gangs and drugs, is seeking help in finding $200,000 in clothing taken from its headquarters that was to be given to impoverished Los Angeles families.

“So far the response has been slow,” said Volmer Thrane, administrator of Operation Stitches, adding that the group has received fewer than 100 calls since the plea for help on Dec. 20.

“The response is so small we’re kind of puzzled by it,” he said.

The 17,500 pieces of donated clothing were to be surprise Christmas gifts to low-income families at seven Los Angeles housing projects, including Jordan Downs, Nickerson Gardens and Pueblo del Rio.

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“This is a much-needed thing, and whoever took these clothes robbed these kids of their Christmas,” said Howard Wasserman, manager of Jordan Downs, where more than 1,000 youths would have received the gifts.

The tractor-trailer rig packed with the Christmas gifts was stolen on Dec. 13.

The truck was found last week without its holiday cargo. Corona Police said they have made no arrests.

If the stolen clothing can’t be found, supporters of the program hope to come up with enough donations to replace the items and have a post-Christmas surprise for the families.

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“We are going to have a Christmas after Christmas,” Thrane said.

Former Rams defensive lineman Rosey Grier and other program supporters asked for donations to replace the stolen gifts shortly after the theft.

Thrane said he hopes people who received clothing gifts for Christmas that they do not want will donate them rather than return them to stores.

“We are going to go back to these projects, and if we don’t have enough (for all project areas), then we’ll go to the ones with most need,” he said.

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Information: (800) 767-4774.


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