Vancouver burglary stirs Christmas spirit

Community rallies to replace presents, possession stolen from single mom, son

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter



Help for addiction

Debra Deblander suspects the person or people who burglarized her home earlier this month committed the crime to feed an addiction. As a result, she asked to share information about one local resource dedicated to helping those fighting addiction.

Faith Center’s Xchange Church, 10702 N.E. 117th Ave. in Vancouver, offers a service every Saturday at 6 p.m. The service is primarily for people with addiction, in recovery or in treatment.

The church can also help connect people with additional resources and help, Deblander said.

Debra Deblander was overwhelmed by the mound of gifts cascading from her Christmas tree.

But it wasn't the number of gifts that left the 32-year-old single mom in awe, it was how they got there.

Less than two weeks earlier, on Dec. 13, Deblander's Cascade Park home was burglarized while she and her 13-year-old son, Kavin Hernandez, were away for the day. Every present under the tree and all of the electronics in the home — the TV, Kavin's Playstation and video games, the family's DVDs, Debra's iPad — were gone. So was the $1,000 in cash Debra had set aside for bills and a few more Christmas presents, all of her jewelry and irreplaceable personal items, such as baby photos.

"I almost felt hopeless when I came home," she said.

About a year ago, she opened her own salon, Debra Dee's Lavish Lashes, in Orchards. She's also studying cosmetology at the Vancouver School of Beauty, so money is tight. The Christmas gifts she had purchased for her son didn't have much value, but Deblander didn't have the money to replace them.

Clark County sheriff's Sgt. Shane Gardner, who owns the home Deblander rents, shared Deblander's story on his Facebook page. When Washougal Mayor Sean Guard saw the post, he felt compelled to help.

He posted on his own Facebook page and sent out a mass email explaining Deblander's situation and asking for anything to help the family. He and his wife, Annie, spent the weekend before Christmas using the donations to purchase gifts and the day before Christmas wrapping presents.

As many families were sitting down for dinner on Christmas Eve, Guard was pulling up to Deblander's Cascade Park home with an entourage — which included members of the Vancouver Fire Department and Clark County Sheriff's Office — and vehicles full of gifts.

The community had rallied together to replace what was stolen and then some.

Aaron's, the lease-to-own retailer, donated a new TV and Playstation. Fred Meyer provided a Christmas dinner and a $500 gift card. Waste Connections contributed a new bicycle and helmet for Kavin. Other businesses donated gift cards and individuals contributed cash, gifts and household items.

"This might end up being overkill for one family, but at the same time, it's pretty neat," Guard said before making the delivery. "It validates my thoughts about how caring people are about other folks."

Deblander suspected something was up — her sister, who had come over for the evening, kept looking out the window — but she never expected the outpouring of community support.

"It's comforting to see so many people care," Deblander said. "I'm just really thankful and grateful."

Deblander has also received support from her own network of friends, family and co-workers.

Right after the burglary, two of Deblander's friends, Tiffany Busby and Jamie Carter, stayed with her and helped her sift through her ransacked home. Her sister, Leslie Carpenter, set up an online fundraiser that has raised more than $1,700 for the family. And another friend held a fundraiser at Rose's Restaurant and Bakery.

All of the attention, however, has left Deblander feeling a little guilty because many burglary victims don't have the same support system and other people may not even have a roof over their heads, spending their holidays in shelters.

Deblander has spent time volunteering in the past — the most recent a few weeks ago delivering gloves and hats to homeless men and women in downtown Portland — and she plans to continue paying it forward.

She's also hopeful for the person or people who burglarized her home. She suspects the person responsible was stealing to feed an addiction. With addiction services limited, even those who want help may not be able to get it. Without help, the cycle of crime and incarceration won't stop, she said.

"I just hope the person who did this can get some help because you can't live your life like this," Deblander said.