FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) – Hundreds of coats and other winter clothing items that were set to be donated to children at King Elementary School in West Fresno were allegedly stolen from a man’s car on Tuesday night.

“I was in sheer devastation that someone would steal these gifts that were meant to serve kids and their families,” said Eric Payne, the owner of the car and employee at the Central Valley Urban Institute.

The winter clothing fundraiser happens yearly between Fresno Unified School District and the Central Valley Urban Institute. It’s been on pause for two years because of COVID-19, and Payne says he was excited to bring it back.

“Martin Luther King Elementary School is in the heart of West Fresno, which has some of the highest levels of concentrated poverty in the country. It’s a small burden that’s alleviated from the household. And, more importantly, the kids smile when they get to pick out these items,” he said.

Sergeant Diana Vega from the Fresno Police Department says car break-ins tend to become more common during the holiday season, as more and more people leave items in the car.

“We like to communicate with the public that if they are shopping, to hide their belongings or keep them with them instead of in their vehicle so that if someone walks by and sees items, they won’t steal them,” she said.

If members of the public want to donate coats or other winter clothing items to children at King Elementary School, you can drop the items off at the school or at the Central Valley Urban Institute.