Independence, Kan. Independence kids right at the age to decide whether they believe in Santa Claus may revise their decision after an anonymous benefactor gave $400 to make up for a recent theft of donated food at Jefferson School.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” Jefferson School instructor Melinda Miller said, quoting the famous 1897 editorial in The New York Sun.
An unknown man walked into the Independence Police Department on Friday afternoon and handed four $100 bills to Administrative Assistant Tammy Freeman.
“It was awesome to see the generosity,” Freeman said.
“It was just a very nice thing for somebody to do,” Police Chief Harry Smith said.
Jefferson principal Debbie Toomey said she hopes the donor comes forward.
“We would really like to thank him in person,” she said.
The donor told Freeman he learned from Thursday’s news reports that an estimated $480 worth of canned goods collected by Jefferson School students had been stolen. Jefferson serves third through fifth grade students in Independence.
Toomey said the students do a community service project every other month and November’s project was a drive to benefit the Kansas Food Bank. They do not have an exact count of what was taken and were not sure when it happened, but knew it was significant. The collected canned goods and fruit were stored around the building, in classrooms and where space was available.
“We had never had theft like that before,” Toomey said.
The items were taken between Nov. 16 and Nov. 27. As the project was wrapping up and they were packaging items for delivery, teachers noticed some items students had brought in were gone.
Each class had tallied its collection on a bulletin board for comparison, and from that count School Resource Officer Dustin Stafford estimated the loss at $480.
“The students were just devastated when they found out,” Toomey said.
“Our faith in humanity had a few dents and dings after the theft.”
She said that faith has been restored.
Freeman declined to describe the man who made the $400 donation, but said he did not have a beard. Smith said he told her just to say Santa Claus brought it.
Miller, who is Jefferson’s School Home Community coordinator, said she did not know until she picked up the donation Friday afternoon what it was about.
“I just stood there. I was stunned,” she said. “There’s just a great angel out there.”
Smith said officers will continue to investigate the theft, but do not know who the anonymous donor was.
“We have no idea,” he said.
“Our whole purpose was to teach kids that it was better to give, of course, than receive,” Toomey said.