Heartless thieves stole hundreds of Christmas lights from a pensioner’s garden that had been transformed into a winter wonderland.
Irene Lopinto, 66, had put the lights up for more than 20 years at her Engine Lane home in Newthorpe, and said she lost faith in her community after thieves stole every light and ornament in a display that took her hours to create.
But the lights and flashing reindeer have now been replaced, after a kind-hearted neighbour rallied round to raise the money to get the garden back up and running.
Georgina Wyld, also of Engine Lane, put the story on Facebook – and it was shared an enormous 11,000 times.
The 28-year-old was determined to restore Irene’s faith in her local community, and said the response from people donating cash and lights was ‘overwhelming’.
“I even had children turning up on my doorstep donating their week’s pocket money,” she said.
“People started emailing me on Facebook saying how sad it was and asking if they could donate. I‘ve had donations from local businesses and people I had never met just turned up at my door.”
Georgina – who did not know Irene before her fundraising campaign – said she initially put it on Facebook to shame the thieves, but thought about raising the money after hearing how her neighbour was feeling.
“At first I just wanted to shame them. But then I heard she was more upset about losing her faith in the local community so I thought if I could collect the money it would show her that she still does live in a nice area.”
The mum-of-one raised enough to get the garden looking like Blackpool illuninations, and went to surprise Irene with the news and put the new lights up last Friday.
Irene, who had already suffered a bad year due to her husband’s ill health, said: “I just cried when she told me. I thought how nice people had been. I’ve got great neighbours and friends.
“I was overwhelmed.”
Georgina, whose partner, Paul Riley, plays for Eastwood Town Football Club, said: “I was horrified when I heard. They just came in the night and wiped the garden clean.
“They cut all the cable ties so it’s not even like they can use them.”