EAST PATCHOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Grinch-like burglars are on the loose on Long Island.
Now police want your help as they hunt for the heartless thieves who stole from a struggling family just days before Christmas, CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reports.
Cruelty at Christmas is difficult to comprehend, especially for a child.
“I was bursting into tears. I couldn’t even explain it. It hurt so much that someone would do that,” 10-year-old Mathew Sabolenko said.
WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs On The Story
Mathew’s sister Madison is 12. They came home with their mom to discover the back kitchen window open, water running, carpet flooded, the house ransacked and their presents stolen.
“I feel betrayed, because we don’t even know them probably, and they don’t know us,” Madison said, adding when asked about some hardships that have faced the family this year, “yes, my mom has been trying to make it wonderful, and they taking it away from us, not fair.”
Their mom, Cheri, is a single mother working two jobs — a teacher’s assistant and in public relations for a magazine — trying to make ends meet. She had gone all out to celebrate this year.
“I couldn’t understand how someone could be so mean spirited. To just take everything, leave nothing behind. They didn’t even know what they were taking. They were wrapped up,” Cheri Sabolenko said.
“They took the Christmas gifts, my daughter’s birthday gifts cause it was her birthday the day before. We had family over. I still can’t believe it actually happened. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up and it’s a dream,” Cheri told WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs.
It was to be the first Christmas for the kids in their Habitat for Humanity home, built with pride partly on Cheri’s sweat equity.
“I put in every single weekend for 35 weeks,” she said.
Habitat for Humanity awarded the family based on financial hardship and willingness to volunteer to help build.
“We are not a charity. The motto is ‘a hand up, not a hand out.’ It’s about helping people build their lives,” said Vivian Becker of Suffolk Habitat for Humanity.
So, Habitat said it was especially difficult to see the Sabolenkos suffer.
Suffolk Police Lt. Edward Reilly is looking for witnesses, hoping thieves may be bragging about the burglary and vandalism.
Late Tuesday neighbors and a children’s foundation visited the family and donated some toys, even writing a check.
Emotions are running high, as the Sabolenkos try to make Christmas special and caring strangers offer to lend a hand.
“The kids are trying to understand, but no kid wants to see Christmas disappear,” Cheri told WCBS 880’s Xirinachs. “Now I’m stuck with bills for stuff we don’t have and I’m maxed out. I really can’t make this happen.”
If you’d like to help the Sabolenko children or other needy families this Christmas, please click here. Or, you can contact Habitat for Humanity at 631-422-4828.
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