A Grand Rapids man who reportedly lost about $3,000 in valuables when a “Free Stuff’’ yard sign sparked surreptitious looting, says he is “overwhelmed’’ after receiving a new lawn mower from an area hardware store.
“Don’t try to take this one because it’s going to be locked up,’’ said 27-year-old Joseph Alexander, the proud owner of a $399 Toro all-wheel drive bagger mower donated by Gemmen’s Home & Hardware of Hudsonville.
“The one I had didn't have a bag, so this is much nicer,’’ he said. “It has me in a much better mood; I am overwhelmed by the generosity.’’
Alexander wasn’t in such a chipper mood Sunday afternoon when he walked outside his Northwest Side home and found the yard bereft of anything that wasn’t nailed down.
It started with a “Free Stuff’’ sign he planted near the curb on McReynolds Avenue near 11th Street NW. He placed books, toys and children’s clothing along the grass strip between the sidewalk and street with a sign inviting neighbors to help themselves.
It was picked clean, as he expected. But so was his front yard and the front porch. That, Alexander said, caught him by surprise.
“This person must have been a Ninja; I didn’t hear anything,’’ Alexander said. “If it wasn’t nailed down, it was gone.’’
Some of what disappeared was unsold items from the yard sale he packed in bins and placed under a tarp. Other pilfered goods included his power tools, lawn furniture and, of course, the lawn mower.
“They took our wind chimes and the solar lights we had around the yard,’’ he said. “I had a Dyson vacuum on the front porch. It was a great vacuum; they took it.’’
Alexander said he called Grand Rapids police, but was told there was nothing they could do because of the ‘Free Stuff’ sign in the front yard.
“You’d think people would understand it was only meant for the stuff beside the curb,’’ he said. “I’m surprised they didn’t take the front door knob or the wheels off the car.’’
Eric Zane, radio host for WBBL-FM 107.3 in Grand Rapids, heard of the Alexander's plight and got him on the phone. Joining them on the airwaves was Andrew Gemmen, owner of Gemmen’s Home & Hardware.
Gemmen told Alexander to stop by the store Tuesday, Aug. 1 and pick out a complimentary mower.
“The part that hit me the most was when he said that he trusted his neighbors enough to be able to leave his things out overnight,’’ Gemmen said. “So, we’re going to give him one less thing to worry about and replace his lawnmower.’’
Gemmen’s gesture represents a giving spirit that is alive and well in West Michigan, Zane said.
“He may be getting some of his other items back a little slower, but he’ll be mowing his lawn, thanks to Andrew,’’ Zane said. “And that’s a good thing. Everybody needs to be able to mow their lawn.’’
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