OXFORD – Almost $5,000 has poured into Dino’s Variety store from all over the country to help support needy local children after a Christmas Grinch stole $67 from a donation jar last month.

“People said they just couldn’t believe that we had someone do what they did to the kids,” said Gary Paladino, owner of the small variety store on Skeetfield Road.

On Nov. 23, Paladino arrived at his store sometime after 2 a.m. to open it up. He found blood from where a thief had broken a window and a missing jar containing $67 that was part of a fundraising effort store patrons make to the Oxford Elementary School PTA to help needy Oxford children at Christmas time. Generally, the store raises about $500.

The outrage then ensued from people all over the country and Canada who read and heard about the incident has Paladino, who is a member of the Oxford Elementary School Parents Teachers Association, reeling with thanks.

“We were able to buy toys and clothes for 30 needy kids, instead of eight like last year,” Paladino said Wednesday afternoon as he looked at the display of more than 75 letters he has received and displayed on the store’s walls and counter.

“Our family hopes this helps you replace what those terrible people did,” wrote a family from California.

“Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” wrote another from Pennsylvania. “Sorry it couldn’t be more. Keep up the good work.”

And from West Virginia, “Here’s $20 to buy toys for the children and for Christmas. Thank you,” wrote Wayne Q. Stewart in a child’s handwriting.

“He probably robbed his piggy bank,” said Paladino incredulously.

Paladino said that as of Tuesday, $4,861 had been received and it has been spent on the Christmas for Kids recipients. More money is coming in daily. Each donor has been sent a Christmas card with a personal inscription from Paladino to thank them.

Paladino said the donations included three checks of $500 each including one from a man who drove over from New Hampshire to personally present the check.

In addition to the “jar” donations, Paladino is still raising money through his “world’s largest Christmas tree stocking” raffle. Money from the $1 raffle – the winner will be drawn next week – will be put toward next year’s donations.

“He (the thief) stole $67 and we got back close to $5,000,” Paladino said.

Police said Wednesday that the case is still under investigation. Paladino said this is the sixth break-in he has had since he bought the store in September of 2004, and the third this year.

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