Officer replaces family's stolen presents

December 27, 2009 7:14:40 PM PST
An apartment fire and burglary threatened to ruin Christmas for one South Side family this weekend, until a Chicago police officer with a heart as big as the season came to the rescue.It turned out to be a merry Christmas for Tondonlia Brown and her family, but it didn't start out that way.

"It just makes me happy to see a smile on their faces," Brown said.

Early Christmas morning, the 30-year-old single mother and her two children -- 6 year old son Shaun and 2-year-old daughter Keiara -- narrowly escaped harm when a fire broke out in their South Side apartment building.

The blaze caused heavy smoke damage to their third floor unit.

The family ended up spending most of the day hospitalized with smoke inhalation, only to return home to find they'd been robbed of their big screen TV and the holiday presents Brown, who has been laid off, worked so hard to buy.

"It's heartbreaking. Do you have a heart, a soul to do something like that? It's despicable," Brown said.

With her apartment uninhabitable and burglarized, and her Christmas gifts and possessions gone, the holiday looked bleak.

That's when Chicago Police Officer Michael Lawrence stepped in. The eight-year police veteran responded to the burglary call, and after seeing Brown crying, he felt compelled to help.

"The Grinch stole all the presents. I took the reports; I just could not get it out of my head. I wanted to do something for them Christmas morning," Lawrence said.

Lawrence used his own money to buy the family a $200 gift card from Sears, two police action figures and "kids on patrol" hats and shirts -- an extra special gift because the kids' grandfather is a sergeant with CPD.

"People don't see the men and women on the job helping people every day. They enjoy helping people every day and go above and beyond the call of duty," said Lt. Brent Fidler, Chicago Police Department.

Brown and her family are staying with relatives, she said as she makes plans to move on, and added the generosity of a stranger will always have a place in her heart.

"It's a season for giving a season for family. I'm grateful for what he did," Brown said.


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