An Ottawa housing charity says it's overwhelmed by the kindness of strangers after they rallied together to replace stolen Christmas gifts for low-income families.
"The citizenry of Ottawa have given from their hearts they have empathized, they have come together," said Adrian Benjamin, who works with the Multifaith Housing Initiative.
The gifts — toys, 2023 calendars and gift cards to local grocery stores valued at $600 — were intended for 26 families at the charity's Blake House property in Vanier.
The charity provides housing for low-income people at five locations across Ottawa.
$4K in donations
In a previous interview, Benjamin, the charity's community engagement manager, said he was unsure what else some of the children would have received for Christmas. He said bad weather over the holidays kept him from delivering the Blake House gifts until after Dec. 25.
Although he believes the gifts were taken out of his SUV overnight at his Barrhaven home, it was only after he arrived to deliver them when he realized a theft had occurred.
"I feel disappointed that the act happened and I wish it didn't," he said. "But rising out of that — there are lots of good people here in Ottawa."
As of Tuesday evening, the organization raised approximately $4,000, well-exceeding the value of what was taken, according to the charity's manager of communications.
Benjamin said some donations are still being collected by the charity and aren't yet in hand, but thanks to the community rallying, it means the tenants will receive an even bigger Christmas surprise than they initially would have.
He previously estimated the stolen gifts would have cost over $1,000, but didn't have an exact figure.
"I feel a sense of relief in that it's almost like good overcomes evil," Benjamin said.
'Totally, totally uplifted,' says volunteer
One donor who gave $400 asked CBC to remain anonymous.
"It's a lot of money, but at the same time, we spend a lot of money on other things that are less important," they said by phone on Wednesday.
"I think $1,000 for 26 families is really not a lot so I'm just happy they were able to quadruple that amount," they continued.
When Mara Watson thinks back on the theft, she still gets emotional.
The volunteer helped organize the first batch of gifts and said volunteers were "really, really excited" to have them passed out.
With donations still being finalized, Watson said they still haven't decided exactly how to best use those funds and a new delivery date hasn't been set.
For now, the good will of Ottawans has restored some of her hope in the world.
"There might be bad things happening, but good people help make the good things happen," she said. "I'm totally, totally uplifted to know that people care."