Community rallies around theft victim

Preschool teacher Peggy Williams doesn't talk as if she's just had her car stolen.

"It's almost gotten to the point that I feel like I don't deserve all the amazing things that are happening to me," the Costa Mesa resident said Thursday.

On Tuesday, her 1999 Honda Accord, with more than 200,000 miles on the odometer, was taken out of Lighthouse Community Church's parking lot in Costa Mesa, she said.

When the 25-year-old and her fellow teachers left the church's preschool, called Lil' Lighthouse Preschool, the car was gone.

"I had to stop and think, 'Did I drive today?'" Williams said. "Then the panic feeling sets in."

The car wasn't empty either.

Inside were clothes, makeup, her laptop and anything else she had needed while staying at a friend's house the night before.

Williams filed a police report that day.

Since then, parents have showered her with gifts to replace what she has lost, said the preschool's top administrator, Marge Menashe.

After all, the timing was appropriate. "This is teacher appreciation week," she said.

A day after the crime, a parent had ordered Williams a new laptop.

Another gave her $500 in cash delivered in $1 bills by a student.

"The $500 was hard to accept because that was just an incredible gesture," Williams said. "People are so generous, almost obscenely generous."

Her roommates and fellow teachers bought her makeup and toiletries to replace what was in the car. Gift cards and flowers streamed in from parents, some of whom Williams barely knew.

"That's just the way our school is," Menashe said.

The injustice of the theft struck a chord with parents, rallying them around the teacher, she explained.

It was Williams' first car and a gift from a friend at Vanguard University, the Costa Mesa school from which she graduated in 2009.

"I don't think anyone imagines their car being stolen, especially in a church parking lot," Menashe said.

The school isn't stopping there, she added. Three people are chasing leads to get Williams new transportation.

"We're going to get her a car," Menashe said.

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