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  1. ITV Report

School friends donate their pocket money after Christmas fund is stolen from Devon church

A pair of school friends have come to the rescue after a church collection box was stolen during a carol concert in Devon.

When they heard that money had been taken from the Christmas tree festival donation jar at St Eustachius Church in Tavistock, Abbi Jillians and Holly Wilson decided to donate their pocket money.

They've won widespread praise for their act of kindness, with the vicar describing them as a 'credit to their community'.

We discovered at the end of our advent carol service that some money had gone from church. We were shocked by that, deeply saddened, and very disappointed that that should have happened.

We'd had a wonderful day of celebration, a superb carol service in the evening which was well attended, it was day three of a festival which was in its eleventh year, and we discovered the money missing.

– The Very Rev Chris Hardwick, Vicar of Tavistock
Tavistock vicar Chris Hardwick thanked the girls for their kindness. Credit: ITV News

I decided to take all my jar money and pocket money to the church just to raise the money. I just wanted to help because I don't like that the church's money got stolen.

– Abbi Jillians

Abbi told me and I was sad, it was really sad what happened, I wanted to help Abbi so I've got some donations. I think it will change people's minds, I think everyone can help somehow.

– Holly Wilson
The Christmas tree festival in Tavistock has been running for 11 years. Credit: ITV News

I read the story out to my husband and Abbi perked up right in the middle of it and she gasped and she said 'They can have my money in my jar mummy'. And it's gone from there really. I'm shocked actually but I love the community we live in and they always pull together, I'm so proud of everyone.

– Julie Jillians, Abbi's mum
Vicar of Tavistock Chris Hardwick says the community have rallied round. Credit: ITV News

Security at the church has been tightened since the incident, but Rev Hardwick says allowing people to come and go from places of worship is an important part of Christmas.

It's a church that we leave open during the day, we welcome visitors, we have plenty of people here but sadly these things do happen and it's happened to us. We've taken the steps we think are appropriate to prevent it happening again, and I hope it won't.

– The Very Rev Chris Hardwick

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The theft has been reported to the police. Credit: ITV News