Stolen van had goodies for service members, organizer says

A van containing Christmas treats for U.S. military personnel was stolen Monday night in Arlington from the organization sending the gifts, the group’s founder said.

The Treats 4 Our Troops vehicle was parked on 7th Street in North Arlington near Wilson Blvd. at the home of founder Yael Roggen, she said in a telephone interview. 

On Tuesday morning, Roggen said, she went outside to find her gold 2007 Honda Odyssey, containing at least 75 pounds of candy and goodies, gone.

On its web site, Arlington police reported the van stolen from the 5600 block of North 7th Street and said at least 12 unlocked vehicles were broken into between 9:30 p.m. Monday night and 7 a.m. Tuesday morning.

The treats were bound for troops in Afghanistan, sailors on naval ships and wounded service members at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, according to Roggen.

The Honda has Virginia license plates, with a vanity logo “Support our troops” and a plate number T4OT2, she said.

“It’s very disappointing,” said Roggen. “This week we were really hoping to move a lot of candy to them, but that’s not going to happen.”

The organization began informally in 2007, when Roggen began sending care packages to a friend’s unit in Iraq.  The following year, as word spread, the group grew and 300 lbs. of candy were collected. Within three years, 3,000 lbs. of candy was donated from schools and neighbors, along with magazines and other goods.

Volunteers helped box up the treats on Veterans Day last month and many of those packages were inside the van.  Now the group is scrambling to piece together last-minute donations from Mt. Olivet Church in Arlington to make sure some care packages reach wounded troops in Bethesda.

“This won’t stop us.  It’s just adding fuel to our fire,” Roggen said.  “Hopefully we’re making lemonade out of lemons today.” 

More: 10 Most-read crime stories of 2011

Clarence Williams is the night police reporter for The Washington Post and has spent the better part of 13 years standing next to crime scene tape, riding in police cars or waking officials in the middle of night to gather information about breaking news in and around Washington.

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