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Empire Editorial: No good deed goes unpunished

Posted: December 27, 2011 - 12:00am

A group of kids set out to raise money for a good cause by wrapping presents during the holiday rush at Nugget Mall. A couple of presents went missing — $358 worth — and theft was alleged by the charity, People to People Ambassadors.

A police report was filed, and the group sent a letter to the Empire’s Opinion page. We printed the letter after a reporter confirmed there was a police report filed.

Then came a news article about the police investigation.

As surely as precipitation falls from the sky, comments followed on our message boards. Some were thoughtful, many were downright vile. Some borrowed heavily from the movie “Pulp Fiction” to satirically suggest ways of dealing with someone who would steal from a charity.

Some people of goodwill even went out to Nugget Mall and made an extra effort to patronize the charity booth in the days before Christmas to help it make up $400 the charity spent to replace the “stolen” gifts, a unique sweater and a wine making kit.

Fast-forward to a grandma and grandpa’s house on Christmas morning when a bright 4-year-old girl — who already knows how to read words on boxes — asked her family why Santa would give her a big sweater and a wine-making kit.

The toys were not where they should have been, and the grown-up merchandise was not stolen.

Well, this mix-up didn’t happen in the chimney, so it appears that a simple mistake was made at the wrap table and compounded by allegations of theft.

We got a very firm note from the wife of the gentleman who brought the gifts Santa had dropped off for his granddaughter to the wrap table. His wife wrote he asked several times if the packages were correct. Assured they were, she wrote, he walked off with the parcels he was presented. The wrong parcels, as it turns out.

Fortunately for the young girl in Douglas, the toys Santa was sending her found her the day after Christmas.

Santa doesn’t make mistakes, but regular people do. This should stand as a lesson for all groups that raise money in part looking after the possessions of others, whether by checking coats at an event or wrapping prized holiday parcels.

Keep careful records, take a name and phone number and tag each parcel to be wrapped with a numbered piece of paper or a raffle ticket stub filed out by the owner — the other half to be redeemed by the person picking up the gift. Gift-wrapping tables are a great service and a fine way to raise cash for non-profit groups.

Grasping for the positive notes in this situation, we found a couple:

• There was no sneak thief out to ruin Christmas after all.

• The community came through during fiscally tight times to support a charity that was out some money.

Despite this logistical glitch and the snarky online commenters it amused, the overall goodness of the citizens of Juneau showed through this week in many ways. A secret Santa covered a family’s electric bill, for example.

Others replaced coats stolen from a warm coat drive for the city’s homeless teens. Many others donated to charities, looked in on neighbors and performed other acts of kindness and generosity.

May the spirit of this season carry on throughout the year.

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