Despite the “heartbreaking” alleged theft of $2 million worth of toys from its North York warehouse over two years, no family in need will be deprived of a Christmas this year, a church spokesperson told a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
“The Salvation Army will help anyone who comes to us this Christmas and in Christmases to come,” Maj. John Murray said at the warehouse and distribution centre at 150 Railside Rd., southeast of Lawrence Avenue and the Don Valley Parkway, the site of a devastating fire in 2008.
In mid-August, a “whistle-blower” tipped off Salvation Army officials to the alleged theft, which involved about 100,000 toys being taken from the warehouse over approximately 24 months, Murray said.
He doesn’t know what happened to the toys and would not comment on the strategy used to remove them from the building, referring questions about the alleged theft to Toronto police investigators. No charges have been laid.
Food and other donated products have also disappeared from the warehouse, Murray said.
“I think, from the Salvation Army’s standpoint, I think it is disheartening to be the victim of a crime and we believe that has happened in this case,” he said.
On Monday, the executive director, whom Murray did not name, was fired.
Citing privacy concerns, Murray would not say whether the whistle-blower, believed to be a staff member, is still employed by the Salvation Army. But he said it took great courage for the person to bring “irregularities” at the warehouse to the attention of officials.
After the whistle-blower came forward, the Salvation Army conducted an audit and has also employed financial giant KPMG to conduct an external forensic audit, he said.
“Our protective systems worked. We’re working on strengthening them,” he said. “Every dollar entrusted to us is sacred. We don’t take that lightly.”
The Salvation Army has also advised its insurers of the alleged crime and expects reimbursement, Murray said.
Despite the magnitude of the alleged theft, Murray is asking donors not to abandon the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas campaign to help the less fortunate.
“To those Canadians who routinely support the Salvation Army, we appeal to them not to lose confidence in our organization,” he said.
“Our protective systems worked, we are strengthening them, we will recover most of our losses and the generosity of Canadians will continue to enhance the quality of life for the many who are in need.”
Last year, more than 156,400 toys were donated to the Salvation Army Toy Mountain campaign in Toronto. About 140,000 toys are distributed to needy children every year.
The Salvation Army also provides food and other assistance to people in need.