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Stolen coats for children turns into a Christmas miracle

A package thief disrupted Danielle Scheffey's coat drive, but couldn't stop it.

A package thief disrupted Danielle Scheffey's coat drive, but couldn't stop it.

Scheffey had packages containing donations for children stolen off her front steps in Northern Liberties, but was boosted by a community that rallied just in time for Christmas to restore what was taken.

"He was the antithesis of Santa," she said Monday. "It's ridiculous, but we got some help. It just took a little brotherly love."

Scheffey started collecting coats after a friend - a teacher at G.W. Childs Elementary School - told her about several students who didn't have warm clothes to wear this winter.

So she set a goal of collecting 50 coats, and as many hats, gloves and scarves they could get their hands on.

And after nearly reaching their goal last week, a package of coats that were shipped to her home on Lawrence Street were swiped on Dec. 9 by a real-life Grinch. After news surfaced last week of the Christmas misery, the community responded with a miracle - sending her more than 45 coats, as well as many hats and gloves.

Donations poured in from a local business, as well as a Good Samaritan from Bucks County whose family is local.

Another man shipped about 18 coats to the school, and a woman from Northeast Philadelphia dropped off dozens of hand-knit scarves and hats.

In total, the school received more than 100 donated coats.

The school's guidance counselor will hold onto the garb, and pass them out to needy children as their needs become apparent.

But on Friday, while Scheffey waited for school to dismiss so she could drop off the coats, she spotted a mother and her two children.

The little boy was wearing a coat, but the teenage daughter was only wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

"It was like 20 degrees out," Scheffey said.

So she approached the family, told them about the drive, and asked the girl if wanted a coat.

"And she said, 'Oh, my god, that would be great,' " Scheffey said. "So we just started ripping open a bunch of bags until we found one that fit her, and she got to walk home with a new coat on."