A Christmas hamper program for needy families in Pigeon Lake, Alta. was saved Thursday after a last-minute Facebook appeal raised enough cash to replace $3,200 worth of stolen toys.

"There's a lot of people out there that do care and they care about the needy," an emotional Gilaine Porter said Thursday afternoon. "It's just unbelievable. We're so, so grateful."

Porter is the chairwoman of the Pigeon Lake Child and Family Society, a charity that was planning to deliver toys and Christmas hampers to 60 needy families this weekend.

But everything changed on Wednesday, when Porter discovered thousands of dollars of toys had gone missing from a storage shed.


Yvonne Wilchewski posted a message on Facebook late Wednesday afternoon. (CBC)

RCMP believe someone loaded the toys into a half-ton truck, intending to sell them at a pawn shop.

Porter was devastated by the discovery, just days before community members were planning to wrap the toys and prepare the hampers.

But a Facebook appeal, launched Wednesday by Edmonton mortgage broker Yvonne Wilchewski, led to the charity receiving more money than it had before — $4,500 by Thursday afternoon.

Wilchewski, who has a cabin in Pigeon Lake, said she learned about the theft after calling Porter to pass on some donations.

"She was very upset," Wilchewski said. "I said to her, 'I'm going to get on Facebook and Twitter and email everybody I know' ... as bad as this is, there's more good people in the world than there are bad. So let's turn this into a positive thing."

Wilchewski started hearing back from her contacts 30 minutes after she posted a message on Facebook late Wednesday afternoon. Emails and phone calls were rolling in by noon Thursday.


Gilaine Porter beams after learning the Facebook appeal raised $4,500 to replace the stolen toys. (CBC)

"By one o'clock this afternoon, we raised back everything that we've lost, plus some we're going to tuck away for emergencies," she said.

Donations have come in from individuals and corporations. Wilchewski's boss chipped in $3,000.

"It just goes to show you what the power of networking can do," she said.

Porter's society has a new, albeit, welcome problem. The community gift-wrapping event is on Saturday so they have two days to shop for thousands of dollars worth of toys.