Donations flood in from across country after news of Roeland Park shoplifter’s plight

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Sarah Robinson and her daughters were on hand at the Roeland Park Police Department as a local radio station held a donation drive for the family. Robinson gave Officer Mark Engravalle a large card one of her daughters had made thanking him for his kindness.

When Sarah Robinson got the call from Roeland Park Police Chief John Morris last week, her stomach clinched. After all, the last time she’d had an interaction with the police department, she’d gotten a citation for shoplifting from Walmart.

“I thought, ‘Oh, no, am I in more trouble?” Robinson said.

Instead, Morris informed Robinson that the response police had gotten to the story of Officer Mark Engravalle purchasing shoes and diapers for Robinson’s children had been overwhelming, and that dozens of people had asked how they could help her as well. What followed over the next two days was nothing short of amazing.

Since the story first ran on the Prairie Village Post Thursday, it has been picked up by dozens of media outlets. Engravalle has done interviews with every local television station, and national outlets including the New York Daily News, CNN and Good Morning America have covered the story. Even British newspaper The Mirror picked up on the story. And on Monday morning, Engravalle did an interview with Fox and Friends, including guest panelist Chris Christie.

With all the media attention, Roeland Park police were flooded with calls from people asking how they could help. On Friday, the department had four people answering phones and fielded more than 500 calls from people wanting to donate to the family, with calls coming from 16 states and even internationally. One call came in from Zurich, Switzerland.

Roeland Park resident Scott Parks and his co-host on KMBZ’s Dana and Parks put out a call for donations on their show. Listeners pitched in more than $6,000 for the family, which Parks delivered to the police station Friday. On Saturday, radio station KCMO organized a donation drive, which saw a steady stream of people coming by the Roeland Park police station dropping off gifts of cash, diapers, clothing and other necessities.

Morris and Sgt. Randy Costlow then helped Robinson set up a bank account at The Mission Bank. When Robinson saw the deposit slip, she told Costlow that she could finally find a place for her family to live.

“It shows you that there are still good people in the world, and how great Kansas City is,” Robinson said Saturday. “I don’t have the words to thank people enough. You don’t know what it’s like to look at your kids crying because they’re dirty because you can’t change their clothes. My kids are really good kids and they really deserve [something better].”

Robinson’s story apparently has even caught the attention of the national political class. Robinson said a representative from former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office had contacted her over the weekend. Clinton is slated to take part in a town hall forum Monday morning at the annual conference of the National Council of La Raza.

Roeland Park police say they are no longer helping coordinate donations for the family, but that a special account has been established at The Mission Bank in Roeland Park. People interested in making a financial donation to the family can write a check to the “Sarah Robinson Donation Account” at Mission Bank, 5115 Roe Avenue, Roeland Park. Call 913-236-3200 for more information.

Roeland Park police helped Robinson set up a bank account.
Roeland Park police helped Robinson set up a bank account.