Thieves stole about 200 toys from a battered women and children’s shelter in San Antonio’s inner city in October, threatening to curb the holiday spirit for nearly 100 children.

But hundreds more toys and necessities have been donated this week to Family Violence Prevention Services‘ shelter after San Antonians heard about the theft through local media reports.

Volunteers and staff members will be working long hours to sort, wrap, and distribute piles of toys in time for Christmas Eve Saturday. How many donations have come in so far?

“I cannot count,” said Marta Pelaez, CEO of Family Violence Prevention Services, which operates the donation center at 2617 N. Main Ave. “A very bad deed turned into this opportunity for people to be so generous.”

A San Antonio police report estimates about $2,000 worth of toys were stolen around 4 p.m. on Oct. 31. The lock to an outside shed had been broken with bolt cutters and 15 boxes of toys and office supplies were taken.

While fleeing the scene, a beige truck hit a dumpster that may have left a green scratch on the side of the vehicle, according to the police report.

The case is still active, SAPD Sgt. Jesus Salame told the Rivard Report Friday afternoon. SAPD donated bikes to the shelter and Blue Santa stopped by to spread cheer.

Fred Reyes, Rey Feo LXIX, also made a surprise visit to the shelter, carrying more than $3,000 in toys with members of his Royal Court and the Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation.

Fred Reyes, Rey Feo LXIX, his Royal Court and members of the Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation delivering more than $3,000 worth of toys to the Battered Women’s and Children’s Shelter.
Fred Reyes, Rey Feo LXIX, his Royal Court and members of the Rey Feo Consejo Educational Foundation delivering more than $3,000 worth of toys to the Battered Women’s and Children’s Shelter. Credit: Courtesy / Melissa Aguillon

“It’s been incredible – very, very heartwarming,” Pelaez said of the countless members of the community who have donated toys, time, money, food, and clothing. “When the shed was broken into, we were broken. … This awful person that broke into our storage had no idea that at the end of this bad thing there would be an unprecedented outpouring of generosity.”

She recalled meeting dozens of people from all walks of life over the past week who just wanted to help in any way possible. Two 14-year-old boys who began collecting blankets, a father of three who brought his family to the shelter to volunteer, and a couple who donated several beds and wished to remain anonymous.

IDEA Carver College Prep college counselor Melanie Leija brings in bags of donations she and her students collected for the shelter.
IDEA Carver College Prep counselor Melanie Leija brings in bags of donations she and her students collected for the shelter. Credit: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone / San Antonio Report

Christmas is, of course, the time of year when the shelter needs as many toys and donations as it can get, Pelaez said, but “gift-giving is year-round for us.”

Each child that comes to the shelter receives a toy and they keep track of birthdays and other religious holidays, she said. As of Friday there are 93 children in the shelter and about 60 women.

Family Violence Prevention Services operates the shelters and provide recovery services for children and battered women who need a safe place to live and acquire the tools they need to achieve independence.

The nonprofit is still accepting holiday donations and year-round contributions can be made at their website here.

Iris Dimmick

Senior Reporter Iris Dimmick covers public policy pertaining to social issues, ranging from affordable housing and economic disparity to policing reform and workforce development. Contact her at iris@sareport.org