DOBSON — The 7 1/2 foot Christmas tree stolen from the Hitchn Post General Store outside of Dobson on Sunday was located and returned Tuesday afternoon, thanks in part to an army of folks who spread out like elves, canvassing the area in search of the perpetrator and his white truck.

Video taken from the store's camera showed a man putting the tree in his white truck.

Store owner Kristi Proffit and a few of her employees had spent hours decorating, as they do each Christmas, when they called it a night on Sunday around 6 p.m. When Proffit opened the store Monday around 5:30 a.m., the tree, the centerpiece of the decorations, was gone.

Proffit posted on Facebook about the theft and included video stills of the white truck. The post was shared more than 600 times, and lots of folks got down to business, scouring the area for the truck.

"I had a lot of people stop by the store and tell me they were taking time out of their day to look for this vehicle," Proffit said. 

The clues they provided to the Surry County Sheriff's Office helped detectives crack the case. 

"They just had to go and pick it up," Proffit said.

A detective found the truck and the tree, stuffed the tree in the back of his cruiser and delivered it to the store around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

A call to the sheriff's office was not immediately returned.

"I'm in awe," Proffit said. "I'm overwhelmed, really."

Now Proffit will get back to work trying to make the tree camera-ready for Santa's visit on Dec. 14. The tree will be the backdrop for pictures with Santa.

"It's going to need some TLC," Proffit said. "But we'll get it back up in no time."

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lodonnell@wsjournal.com

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@lisaodonnellWSJ

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