670 Tamiami Trail North, Naples, FL
NAPLES — Berma Stettner’s voice cracks when she talks about the missing cash.
The assistant manager of the Clock Restaurant in downtown Naples said it took 2 1/2 months to collect the money for Toys for Tots, a Marine Corps Reserve charity that gives toys to children in need during the holiday season. Now it’s gone, stolen from the restaurant’s counter.
“How could someone do that and take money away from a child,” Stettner said during breakfast hour on Wednesday.
The theft occurred on Tuesday night between 10:15 and 10:20 p.m. as staff worked in the back of the restaurant, Stettner said. She estimates that between $200 and $400 was in the box — all donations from customers.
According to the police report, an employee noticed a customer hanging around the front counter near the small donation box before the theft. The customer said he was waiting for someone. The individual was described as a white male in his early 20s with reddish or blond hair, a slender build wearing jeans and a jacket and riding a small motor scooter.
When the employee returned from the back of the restaurant, the customer and the cash box were gone.
Jerry Bray, paymaster for Toys for Tots in Collier County, said that the Clock Restaurant is one of his organization’s largest fundraisers, and fumed about the stolen money happening so close to “Distribution Day” on Saturday.
“It’s crunch time,” Bray said. “We’re short and we still have three days left and are 1,000 toys short.”
Toys for Tots generates roughly $15,000 worth of donations annually for children in Collier County, Bray says. Half of that, he says, are monetary donations that fill the cash boxes scattered throughout the county.
Joe Johnston, coordinator for Toys for Tots, said he hopes to give each of 4,000 children at least three toys this year.
“We still have a deficit,” Johnston said, adding that they need toy donations for boys and girls ages 6 to 8, and ages 9 to 11.
The case of the missing money has been turned over to the Criminal Investigation Bureau of the Naples Police Department.
For more information on donating to Toys for Tots, contact Joe Johnston at (239) 207-5198, or firstname.lastname@example.org.