Toys for Tots Volunteer Mistaken as Thief

By Karen Araiza
|  Wednesday, Dec 4, 2013  |  Updated 7:26 PM EDT
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A Toys for Tots volunteer was mistaken as a thief when she collected donated toys from a local restaurant this week.

NBC10.com - Christine Maddela

A Toys for Tots volunteer was mistaken as a thief when she collected donated toys from a local restaurant this week.

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A Toys for Tots volunteer was mistaken as a thief when she collected donated toys from a local restaurant this week.

"I’m angry and I’ve been wrongly accused," Mimi McHale said.

McHale has been donating her time, collecting toys for the Bucks County chapter of the national Toys for Tots organization from eight different locations. She said she woke up this morning to a barrage of text messages from her son, saying she was being called a toy thief.

"I’ve been frantic all day, crying all day," McHale said.

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Unbeknownst to McHale, she’d been mistaken as a thief by employees at a local restaurant where she collected toys. The Wings-to-Go restaurant in Fairless Hills released surveillance video to local media that showed McHale taking toys from the bin, placing them into a bag and leaving. Employees said she was stealing the toys.

"She was doing what she was supposed to be doing," said Dianne Cochran, a spokeswoman for Bucks County Toys for Tots. "She went into Wings-to-Go, she informed the person behind the counter she was from Toys for Tots. The employee said, ‘Ok.’"

"I went up to the counter and the young girl said, 'Can I help you,' and I said, 'Oh, I'm just here to pick up toys from Toys for Tots and she said, 'Ok, and she turned around and walked away," McHale said.

The restaurant apologized for the mix-up on Wednesday, saying that McHale did not identify herself, which led them to question whether she was a volunteer.

"According to my employees, and according to the video that you see, it does not appear that she did that. And she had no I.D., she had no markings, no sweatshirt, no I.D. badge, nothing that signified that she was an employee or a volunteer,” said Wings-to-Go co-owner Valerie Niedrist.

Restaurant manager Bert Niedrist said before they made the video public, they talked with the Toys for Tots organization and did everything they felt they could do to verifty if the woman was with the organization. Valerie Niedrist said in the past, volunteers have always scheduled pickups ahead of time. "No one has ever come in out of the blue to pickup," Niedrist said.

Bert Niedrist says Wings-to-Go has participated in the Toys for Tots campaign for 10 years and that when the restaurant decided to make the surveillance video public, they thought they were doing the right thing.

Today, McHale set the record straight.

"I’m not a toy thief; I’m a Toys for Tots volunteer. That’s the end of the story."

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