ENGLEWOOD — After a three-week whirlwind of having a 53-foot train container with more than $50,000 worth of goods stolen, finding the container nearly 30 miles away, and fundraising to replace the stolen goods, a South Side organizer finally made her annual Christmas giveaway a reality.
With The Temptations’ “Silent Night” blasting over a speaker, Delece Williams, founder of Kidz Korna, handed out hundreds of presents to children Friday afternoon as part of the 16th annual Adopt Your Block Giveaway. Dozens of cars lined up at 6530 S. Parnell Ave. to pick up teddy bears, dolls and basketballs for children, while families also received much-needed home appliances.
After having to scramble to ensure families in need didn’t go without this holiday season, Williams said the pressure of bringing Christmas to Englewood was finally gone.
“I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m thankful,” Williams said. “God is awesome. It’s finally time for the fun to begin.”
Williams and her team have handed out donated gifts to South Side families on Christmas for nearly two decades. This year, Williams and Sharon Preston, founder of Flags of the Heart, planned to make their giveaway the biggest thus far. In preparation for the holiday, Williams and Preston collected thousands of presents, including 10,000 pieces of costume jewelry.
But on Nov. 20, Willaims arrived at the Englewood lot only to find that her Christmas container was missing. A quick call with CSX Transportation, the company that donated the container, confirmed they hadn’t accidentally moved the unit. Neighbors said they saw someone with “the necessary equipment” move the container. No one knew what happened to the donations.
The mystery was solved days later when Joseph Vaccaro, owner of Vaccaro Trucking, called Preston. A man paid him and his team $625 in cash to move the container to Chicago Heights, Vacarro said. Only after watching news reports did they realize their mistake.
The container was filled with gifts when his team initially dropped it off, Vacarro said. But when Williams got to it, most of the presents were stolen or thrown around the Chicago Heights yard.
Williams and the man who paid to have the contained removed went back and forth at the police precinct to prove whose container it was, Williams said. Ultimately, the police decided it was hers. Williams decided not to press charges, saying the man seemed apologetic and the focus needed to be on the giveaway.
With the initial batch of gifts gone, Williams appealed to the public for donations to make sure the giveaway could go on as planned — and Chicagoans didn’t disappoint.
People donated toys, coats, and funds for presents. On the chilly morning of the giveaway, CSX Transportation surprised Williams with a truckload full of gifts. Amazon Fresh in Oak Lawn donated $10,000 to support Williams and her endeavors.
Tom Livingston, head of state government and community affairs at CSX, said the company felt the need to “do something in the moment” to help Williams and her organization.
“We know how much Kidz Korna and organizations do this time of year for communities, and it’s hard enough to do all that when there’s a further challenge,” Livingston said. “Sometimes, you just have to stop and take a pause and be there for the communities that we coexist with for generations.”
Phil’P Pierce, assistant manager at Amazon Fresh in Oak Lawn, said his team was “ecstatic” to help Kidz Korna continue its efforts in the community. As an Englewood resident, supporting work in the community “was perfect,” he said.
“To see this event take place and everything that Delece is doing to positively impact the community is absolutely astounding,” Pierce said. “And I think it will breed a lot of generational positive changes for our community as well.”
Throughout the ordeal, Williams said she worked every day to “stay positive and maintain hope.”
Her testimony is proof that great things can happen, she said
“If you ever land in my shoes, keep the faith,” Williams said. “Believe beyond belief that everything is going to work out.”
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