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Man Brings Presents, Check To North Bellport Family Robbed Before Christmas

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Cheri Sabolenko

Cheri Sabolenko spoke to CBS 2 and WCBS 880 after her house was ransacked and all of the family’s Christmas gifts were stolen. (Photo: CBS 2)

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NORTH BELLPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A Long Island family’s Christmas has been saved.

After burglars cleaned out a North Bellport home of gifts and electronics last weekend, the Sabolenko family thought they would have no presents to open on Christmas morning.

The family had been out celebrating 12-year-old Madison Sabolenko’s birthday when they returned home to find their house burglarized.

“I was bursting into tears. I couldn’t even explain it. It hurt so much that someone would do that,” said Madison’s brother, 10-year-old Mathew Sabolenko.

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.”

That’s when John Theissen stepped in. He runs a nonprofit foundation for disadvantaged children. He stopped by the home Tuesday with a bag of presents and a check for $5,000. He tells Newsday he was angry after hearing about the burglary in news reports.

Madison thanked the Santa stand-in. “We thought we weren’t going to have a happy Christmas.”

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.

If you’d like to help needy families this Christmas, please click here. Or, you can contact Habitat for Humanity at 631-422-4828.

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(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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