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Criminal Justice

After A Grinch Strikes, Donations Replace Stolen Toys In South LA

Nine people stand shoulder to shoulder, some with their arms around the person next to them, in front of a colorful array of new toys in their original boxes.
Pastor William Smart (center, in the white sweater vest) and volunteers prepare to hand out gifts to families inside the gym at the Children's Collective Inc.-Rita Walters Learning Complex in South L.A.
(Rebecca Ninburg)
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When Pastor William Smart walked out of his Mid-City home Sunday morning, his U-Haul full of donated toys and food had vanished.

A Grinch with a heart two sizes too small had struck.

The items had been donated to the L.A. chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference so more than 200 needy families could have a happier Christmas.

"I said, 'Oh no, this is going to affect a lot of kids,'" Smart told us. "I felt so violated."

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Smart knows some people are desperate — he forgave his Grinch for stealing the truck, and made this plea to those responsible: “We hope that once you see what’s in it that you will know it’s not for sale, it’s for people who are in need.”

Meanwhile, the Whos of Whoville — in this story the Poor Peoples Campaign, Hurting and Hungry Charities and the Shalizi Group, which represents artists — sprang into action and made an appeal for replacements, said organizer Rebecca Ninburg.

The response was immediate.

"The outpouring! We were like, 'Oh my god!'" Ninburg said.

Pastor Smart’s group gave the newly-donated toys and food to the Children's Collective of South L.A., which handed everything out to 209 families on Monday.

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If only the Grinch could see — perhaps his shrunken heart would grow.

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Frank Stoltze covers a new movement for criminal justice reform at a time when not everybody shares the same vision.