Some caring citizens have stepped forward to help out the Bethlehem Lions Club after a holiday Grinch stole dozens of Christmas trees from the lot where the group’s annual sale is held.
Club members Dan Ryan and Ulrich Rudofsky, co-organizers of the sale, said 34 trees were stolen on the night of Friday, Nov. 23. The estimated value of the trees was $1,200.
“They hadn’t even been on the lot 24 hours before they were taken,” said Ryan.
This year marks the Lions Club’s 26th annual Christmas Tree Sale. The trees are ordered each year from a company in Nova Scotia and shipped directly to the lot the day after Thanksgiving. Members had gone to open the lot for the first time this year on Saturday, Nov. 24, and soon realized the trees were gone.
“It’s our custom to count the trees each night when we close and each morning when we open, so that’s how we knew the trees were gone,” Ryan said.
About 350 trees are typically sold during the club’s sale, which is a major fundraiser for the Lions. The money is used for various programs sponsored by the club, like purchasing hearing aids for senior citizens or glasses for needy children, funding the File of Life project in conjunction with Bethlehem Senior Services or sponsoring scholarships for graduating seniors.
“They’re not taking this money out of our pockets, but out of the pockets of someone who needs a hearing aid or others in need,” said Ryan. “This all goes back to the community.”
But in the days following the theft, spirits were lifted as several people stepped forward to help offset the loss.
Ryan said Dan Brown from Saratoga Surveillance offered to come down and look at the site for free. On Wednesday, Nov. 28, he inspected the lot and installed several surveillance cameras and a computer system to view the footage at no charge. There is enough memory in the system to last the four weeks of the sale. Jack Scheriff from Stuyvesant Falls donated $500 because he felt the situation was awful, or more accurately, “a lot of things that can’t be said in the paper.”
Rudofsky said the Lions are grateful for support from the greater community. The money will be put towards the sale’s profits, but it still isn’t enough to make up for the lost trees.
Police are looking for the suspects, but said there isn’t a lot to go on. They are now asking anyone who might have been in the area and noticed anything unusual to contact the Bethlehem Police Department.
“We hear about incidents like this every year, but this is more disturbing for people because it is done as a charity drive,” said department spokesman Lt. Thomas Heffernan.
He said it’s not unusual for those who sell Christmas trees to have a few taken each year. Sometimes, the thefts go unnoticed or are not reported to police because they are hard to track.
“This is unusual because someone took 34 of them and it’s not like they’re going to fit in a pickup. Someone would need a box truck or a truck with a trailer,” he said.
Police are investigating the case, but have very little suspect information. Anyone with knowledge of the incident is asked to call 439-9973.