HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) – Three Kings Day is in January, but because of COVID, Catholic charities planned a March event, but this time it wasn’t the pandemic that forced a cancellation.

Instead, the toys they planned to give out were stolen the night before.

Several door handles at the Catholic Charities Institute for the Hispanic Family were broken so the thieves could get inside.

Now, they are covered in metal plates, which is something the staff was forced to do around the building.

Three Kings Day is on January 6, but because of the pandemic the Institute for the Hispanic Family pushed their annual party until last Friday.

“For us, it was three Magites who were able to bring toys, not toys, but gifts to Jesus on his birth. So, for us, it’s really an opportunity to connect and celebrate our culture,” said Joel Cruz, Senior Director for Institute for the Hispanic Family.

The drive-thru gift giveaway will have to wait until next year.

On Thursday night, the gifts, with a total value of nearly $4,000, were all taken. Only some small ones remained.

“Many of the bags where we put the toys in, what we do is we put the toys and separate them by the family, registered families, so that we know the age and who we are giving toys to, so they just took the bags and they were gone,” Cruz said.

This wasn’t the first time the toys were stolen. Cruz says earlier this month, more toys were taken, however, the Hartford Fire Department stepped in and donated new ones.

“We were so excited, but then came the second time and so by this time, you know what, no more call to action for toys because we first want to secure the place and also want staff to feel safe in their space,” Cruz said.

On Monday, the alarms were inspected, and all the doors got new handles and metal plates to avoid pulling.

“For us, it’s not about, look I caught you, you’re stealing from us, because we recognize, look, we are at a place that also provides behavior health services and substance abuse services,” Cruz said.

Cruz said he noted a trend in what was stolen, from food items to PPE and now toys. Someone he says is probably in need.

Cruz says he will let police carry on with the investigation, but extends his hand in helping whoever is behind the crime. He adds, next year’s event will be even better and hopefully COVID isn’t an issue.

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