Thief busts into Atlanta warehouse, steals toys for needy kids

A real-life Grinch busted into a Georgia warehouse — through a cinderblock wall — and stole thousands of dollars in gifts destined for needy children just days before Christmas, shocked workers said.

The cold-hearted burglar targeted the warehouse operated by the Empty Stocking Fund in southwest Atlanta early Wednesday, leaving a gaping hole behind and stealing donated gifts just days before they were set to be doled out.

“Sadly, our warehouse was broken into last night in the most aggressive of ways,” the nonprofit posted on Facebook. “The loss of goods at this point of the season will be significant. The impact to the families yet to serve even more so. Our hearts are heavy.”

Manda Hunt, the organization’s executive director, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution her team of volunteers were still counting their losses Wednesday and didn’t know how many gifts in all were taken.

“It looks like a war zone on this side,” Hunt told the newspaper. “It’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen. I mean, that’s ambition. If you put that kind of energy toward good work, imagine what you could accomplish, right?”

Hunt thinks the culprit behind Wednesday’s daring heist is the same suspect who repeatedly broke into the 24,000-square-foot warehouse while it was under renovation. The group moved to the new facility in July 2020, Hunt said.

“We’ve had a couple of incidents during distribution,” she told the newspaper. “It’s a busy time, families are waiting to get their gifts, and they would tell us that some guy just came up, jumped up and grabbed a bunch of gifts and walked off.”

A burglar stole gifts from the Empty Stocking Fund in southwest Georgia on December 22, 2021 after sleg-hammering the wall of the warehouse.
The Empty Stocking Fund/Facebook

Security footage at the warehouse has shown what appears to be the same man previously forcing his way inside, Hunt told the newspaper.

“We have worked so hard and done so much,” she said. “We’ve already successfully distributed gifts to 20,000 kids. I’m determined to end on a high note and I’m going to be down there with my kids [Thursday] to get as many of these out as a I possibly can.”

Attempts to reach Hunt early Thursday were unsuccessful and a message seeking comment from the Empty Stocking Fund was not immediately returned.

The nonprofit group is now hoping to raise $25,000 to “get out as many more” holiday gift orders as possible with just hours left until Christmas morning.

“Around 4 am this morning, the Grinch attempted to steal Christmas by sled-hammering a giant hole in our warehouse’s cinderblock wall and helping himself to bags and bags of items,” an online fundraiser reads. “But, with your help we will not let this horrible Grinch ruin anyone’s Christmas!”

The call for goodwill had garnered $8,770 as of early Thursday. Empty Stocking Fund volunteers, meanwhile, cannot go back into the warehouse until a structural engineer deems it safe.

“It’s really hard to keep your eye on the ball and focus on the good that we’re doing, which I know we are, but it just makes you sick,” Hunt said.