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Toys for Tots donations stolen from Danvers storage unit

Twins Grace and John Pironti added to the toys brought to the Danvers police station Friday after their mother learned that a collection for Toys for Tots had been stolen.

Joanne rathe/globe staff

Twins Grace and John Pironti added to the toys brought to the Danvers police station Friday after their mother learned that a collection for Toys for Tots had been stolen.

Bertram Russell has been collecting toys for children at Christmastime for almost 20 years.

But this week, someone broke into a storage unit that Russell, who served with the Marines in Korea, and 30 other veterans had filled with community donations for the Toys for Tots program, taking thousands of dollars worth of gifts.

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“How could somebody do such an obnoxious thing to kids?” said Russell’s wife, Priscilla.

The portable storage unit that held the toys is in the front yard of the Russells’ Danvers home. Police said it appeared that bolt cutters were used to cut the lock. Authorities said they had no suspects and no leads in the theft, which happened Wednesday or Thursday.

But there was proof aplenty that the Christmas spirit still burns bright, with people stepping forward to replenish the plundered trailer.

Andrew Schylling, an employee of Green Elephant Toys in Danvers, said the specialty toy store plans to donate about $1,000 worth of toys to Russell.

Michelle Dumas, who lives in Danvers, picked up her 7-year-old son Jackson from school Friday when he asked that they buy some toys to donate. Mother and son purchased board games, toy cars, and stuffed bears to drop off at the police station.

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Jackson told his mother he was sad that toys destined for children in need had been stolen, saying that is worse than when he loses a toy at home.

Police dispatcher Kelly Mondi said upward of 30 people had stopped at the station Friday with toy donations.

“They’ve dropped off all kinds of toys: sports equipment, dolls, trucks,” she said. “There’s a ton of great stuff there.”

And the phone has been “ringing off the hook” with people wanting to donate, Mondi said.

“Typically, people call us because they have a problem,” Mondi said. “It’s great to have so many calls from people trying to help.”

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call police at 978-774-1212.

Melissa Hanson can be reached at melissa.hanson@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Melissa__Hanson.

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