NEW YORK — A Harlem woman is demanding increased security for gift donation programs after one of her six foster children found a gun in a wrapped Christmas present that had been dropped off at a SoHo church.
Sheeba Anderson picked up a slew of pre-wrapped presents last week from St. Anthony’s Church, which collects gifts for foster children during the holidays, and brought them to her home in the Frederick Douglass Houses. The gifts were given to St. Anthony’s by a nonprofit organization that has a contract with the Administration for Children’s Services, according to The New York Post.
Anderson handed out the presents Christmas morning. When her 8-year-old daughter opened one of the boxes, she discovered a handgun slipped inside the cardboard that contained a mother-and-baby teddy bear set, the Post reported. The child told the paper she reached inside the package and felt something hard, which she initially thought was a stand or another gift. But when she pulled the item out of the packaging, she saw it was a gun.
The child’s foster mother was horrified.
“I heard her say, ‘Look, Miss Sheeba, I found a gun! She was waving it around and playing with it,” Anderson, 42, told the Post. “This is something you never expect on Christmas. I feel like we narrowly avoided what could have been a terrible disaster.”
Anderson grabbed the gun from the child and checked the other presents she had picked up from the church to make sure they didn’t contain anything dangerous. Then she called police to pick up the weapon. The Post reported there were no visible serial numbers on the gun and the firing pin had been removed. Authorities were checking the make and model and looking into how it was donated.
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St. Anthony’s did not immediately return the Post’s requests for comment.
The ACS said in a statement it was investigating “how and why an inoperable weapon was discovered in a foster home.”
“We are concerned when any potential risk in a foster home comes to our attention, and are working to ensure that all of the children in the home remain safe,” the agency said.
Anderson called for increased security for programs that work with the city to provide gifts to children who otherwise might not have any to open for Christmas.
“Who knows what else was going on with this bear? It could have had drugs or needles or anything else in there,” she told the Post. “This is the last thing I would have expected. Security has to be improved. These are anonymous donations. They could have come from anywhere and anyone.”